Friday Tech Roundup (15 March 2013)

Oculus Rift

By on March 15, 2013 at 11:32 am

Welcome to the Friday Tech Roundup! Contained herein is a weekly dose of some of the best tech news from across the internet, rounded up for your edification and entertainment. Read on for all the details of how EA is exploring hooking Frostbite 2 into the Oculus Rift, what to expect from the next Havok physics engine, and how engineers at Caltech have created self-healing circuitry that can rebuild itself in a matter of microseconds.

EA exploring avenues for delivering Frostbite directly into your eyeballs

Frostbite 2, the engine behind Battlefield 3 and Dragon Age 3 may well be getting Oculus Rift support, Eurogamer reports. In an email conversation with Neil Schneider over at MTBS3D, DICE Creative Director for Frostbite Frank Vitz confirmed that an enthusiastic portion of the Frostbite team are looking into the possibility of having the engine worth with the Oculus Rift, and claims to be “one of the guys on the frostbite team pushing hard for it. I am really eager to see how the Oculus Rift works with Frostbite.”

Vitz is careful to make it clear that this is very much an exploratory action at this stage, and implies that that the development kits that they will be working with are owned by members of the team, rather than EA, “I have one of the first Rift dev kits coming my way in March. We have an internal community eager to work on it… I know of at least four kits on order,” he says. Vitz is cautiously optimistic, saying “There are multiple titles in the works that would be awesome with the Rift. Of course it will be the responsibility of each game team to ensure that their game works in S3D and with the Rift if it proves to be viable.”

He mentions that the basic integration with Frostbite 2 should be “pretty straight forward,” but that getting 3D to work with “different kinds of game play cameras,” can be difficult and that he has “worked with several VR headsets in the past and they all fell short.” (Thanks to Darren for sending this in)

Nvidia to provide PhysX and APEX support to Sony PlayStation 4

Nvidia have announced via press release that they are providing PhysX and APEX support for the Sony PlayStation 4. The traditionally GPU-punishing physics technologies are used for “collision detection and simulation of rigid bodies, clothing, fluids, particle systems,” and will be actively supported by Nvidia. Despite the fact that Nvidia state in the press release that these technologies perform best on “any CUDA® architecture-enabled NVIDIA GPU, GeForce 8-series or higher,” the PlayStation 4 is reported to be shipping with an AMD APU, and a Radeon-based graphics adaptor.

Havok Physics to get even more physical in next version

In more physics tech news, Havok have announced the next-gen version of their prolific middleware physics solution, Havok Physics. The next version of Havok is designed to support next-gen consoles, and modern PC configurations, while maintaining support for current generation systems. According to Andrew Bond, Vice President of Technology at Havok, “Beta versions of the technology have been in the hands of a number of leading developers for some time and we have seen dramatic performance gains with simulations running twice as fast or more, and using up to 10 times less memory.

Additionally the new core’s performance is extremely predictable, eliminating performance spikes. We are genuinely excited to see how game designers will harness the additional power that we are offering with this release.” These claims are backed up in the press release by Laurent Gorga, Technical Director at 2K Czech who says “we’ve been blown away by how Havok’s new physics technology is able to make highly efficient utilization of all available hardware cores with a very lean runtime memory footprint.” Havok make no mention of new engine features, but the performance improvements alone make the prospect of physics-heavy simulations far less daunting for a wider range of hardware profiles.

Valve and Xi3 curtly tango atop the incorporeal Steam Box

In a recent statement, Valve seemed to be distancing itself from Xi3 and the Piston console, saying “Valve began some exploratory work with Xi3 last year, but currently has no involvement in any product of theirs.” In a prepared response, Xi3 Corporation President, CEO, and founder Jason A. Sullivan said, “We reaffirm the fact that we received an investment from Valve Corporation (as we previously disclosed during the 2013 International CES trade show), and we did so with Valve’s written permission.” He goes on, “Second, we were asked to build a product specifically for Valve, and both companies showcased this product – the Piston console – in their respective booths at CES 2013.”

He then went on to explain the distancing, “the assumption of many in the media has been that Piston is the ‘official’ Steam Box,” said Sullivan. “We’ve never said that and neither has Valve. That hasn’t changed. But just because Valve may not ‘currently’ have any ‘involvement with any product of (ours)’ doesn’t mean that such involvement won’t exist in the future.” He closes with a cheeky invitation, “what Valve does or doesn’t do with its Steam Box will be up to them. So Gabe, it’s up to you. The ball is in your court.”

Self-healing chipsets could be the harbinger of our doom, but will be super-convenient until then

Last week we learned about growing semiconductors, and this week we continue inexorably toward the robo-destruction of humanity with the discovery of self-healing circuits. Engineers from the High-Speed Integrated Circuits laboratory in Caltech’s Division of Engineering and Applied Science, have developed a series of self-healing integrated circuits that can automatically recover from damage that would render other circuits inoperable. Whether it is something as simple as unreliable battery power, to full transistor failure, these self-healing circuits are able to automatically work around the problem transistors in less than a second.

As engineers are wont to do, the Caltech boffins tested the chips by subjecting them to multiple blasts from a high-power laser, “It was incredible the first time the system kicked in and healed itself. It felt like we were witnessing the next step in the evolution of integrated circuits,” says Ali Hajimiri, the Thomas G. Myers Professor of Electrical Engineering at Caltech. “We had literally just blasted half the amplifier and vaporized many of its components, such as transistors, and it was able to recover to nearly its ideal performance.” The full results of the tests are available in the March issue of IEEE Transactions on Microwave Theory and Techniques.

One comment (Leave your own)

Havok’s not dead? Wow i’m surprised, PhysX seemed to just take over. Hopefully this new Havok brings a ton more features like water and destruction to catch up to what PhysX can do. The plus being it won’t be tied down to a single piece of hardware and thus devs are more likely to use the new effects.

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