From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Original author(s)NovodeX AG (ETH Zurich)
Developer(s)Nvidia Corporation
NovodeX AG
Stable release
Blast 5.0.0; PhysX SDK 5.1.3; Flow 2.0.2 / February 23, 2023 (2023-02-23)
Repository (5.x) (4.x)
Written inC++
Operating systemMicrosoft Windows, macOS, Linux, PlayStation 2, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360, Xbox One, Wii, iOS, Android
TypePhysics simulation
WebsiteNvidia PhysX developer site
A BFG Physx card

PhysX is an open-source[1] realtime physics engine middleware SDK developed by Nvidia as a part of Nvidia GameWorks software suite.

Initially, video games supporting PhysX were meant to be accelerated by PhysX PPU (expansion cards designed by Ageia). However, after Ageia's acquisition by Nvidia, dedicated PhysX cards have been discontinued in favor of the API being run on CUDA-enabled GeForce GPUs. In both cases, hardware acceleration allowed for the offloading of physics calculations from the CPU, allowing it to perform other tasks instead.

PhysX and other middleware physics engines are used in many video games today because they free game developers from having to write their own code that implements classical mechanics (Newtonian physics) to do, for example, soft body dynamics.[2]


What is known today as PhysX originated as a physics simulation engine called NovodeX. The engine was developed by Swiss company NovodeX AG, an ETH Zurich spin-off.[3] In 2004, Ageia acquired NovodeX AG and began developing a hardware technology that could accelerate physics calculations, aiding the CPU. Ageia called the technology PhysX, the SDK was renamed from NovodeX to PhysX, and the accelerator cards were dubbed PPUs (Physics Processing Units).[4]

In its implementation, the first video game to use PhysX technology is The Stalin Subway, released in Russia-only game stores in September 2005.[5]

In 2008, Ageia was itself acquired by graphics technology manufacturer Nvidia.[6] Nvidia started enabling PhysX hardware acceleration on its line of GeForce graphics cards[7] and eventually dropped support for Ageia PPUs.[8]

PhysX SDK 3.0 was released in May 2011 and represented a significant rewrite of the SDK, bringing improvements such as more efficient multithreading and a unified code base for all supported platforms.[2]

At GDC 2015, Nvidia made the source code for PhysX available on GitHub, but required registration at[9] The proprietary SDK was provided to developers for free for both commercial and non-commercial use on Windows, Linux, macOS, iOS and Android platforms.[10]

On December 3, 2018, PhysX was made open source under a 3-clause BSD license, but this change applied only to computer and mobile platforms.[11]

On November 8, 2022, the open source release was updated to PhysX 5, under the same 3-clause BSD license. [12]


The PhysX engine and SDK are available for Microsoft Windows, macOS, Linux,[11] PlayStation 3,[13][14] PlayStation 4,[15] Xbox 360,[16] Xbox One,[17] Wii,[18] iOS and Android.[11]

PhysX is a multi-threaded physics simulation SDK. It supports rigid body dynamics, soft body dynamics (like cloth simulation, including tearing and pressurized cloth), ragdolls and character controllers, vehicle dynamics, particles and volumetric fluid simulation.

Hardware acceleration[edit]

Comparison of physics levels in Mafia II.
(PC) The top screenshot shows how debris is simulated in Mafia II when PhysX is turned to the highest level in the game settings. The bottom screenshot shows a similar scene with PhysX turned to the lowest level.


A physics processing unit (PPU) is a processor specially designed to alleviate the calculation burden on the CPU, specifically calculations involving physics. PhysX PPUs were offered to consumers in the forms of PCI or PCIe cards by ASUS,[19] BFG Technologies,[20][21] Dell[22] and ELSA Technology.[23]

Beginning with version 2.8.3 of the PhysX SDK, support for PPU cards was dropped, and PPU cards are no longer manufactured.[8] The last incarnation of PhysX PPU standalone card designed by Ageia had roughly the same PhysX performance as a dedicated 9800GTX.[24]


After Nvidia's acquisition of Ageia, PhysX development turned away from PPU extension cards and focused instead on the GPGPU capabilities of modern GPUs.

Modern GPUs are very efficient at manipulating and displaying computer graphics, and their highly parallel structure makes them more effective than general-purpose CPUs for accelerating physical simulations using PhysX.

Any CUDA-ready GeForce graphics card (8-series or later GPU with a minimum of 32 cores and a minimum of 256 MB dedicated graphics memory[25]) can take advantage of PhysX without the need to install a dedicated PhysX card.


Nvidia APEX technology is a multi-platform scalable dynamics framework build around the PhysX SDK. It was first introduced in Mafia II in August 2010.[26] Nvidia's APEX comprises the following modules: APEX Destruction, APEX Clothing, APEX Particles, APEX Turbulence, APEX ForceField and formerly APEX Vegetation which was suspended in 2011.[27][28]

From version 1.4.1 APEX SDK is deprecated.[29]

Nvidia FleX[edit]

FleX is a particle based simulation technique for real-time visual effects. Traditionally, visual effects are made using a combination of elements created using specialized solvers for rigid bodies, fluids, clothing, etc. Because FleX uses a unified particle representation for all object types, it enables new effects where different simulated substances can interact with each other seamlessly. Such unified physics solvers are a staple of the offline computer graphics world, where tools such as Autodesk Maya's nCloth, and Softimage's Lagoa are widely used. The goal for FleX is to use the power of GPUs to bring the capabilities of these offline applications to real-time computer graphics.[30]

Criticism from Real World Technologies[edit]

On July 5, 2010, Real World Technologies published an analysis[31] of the PhysX architecture. According to this analysis, most of the code used in PhysX applications at the time was based on x87 instructions without any multithreading optimization. This could cause significant performance drops when running PhysX code on the CPU. The article suggested that a PhysX rewrite using SSE instructions may substantially lessen the performance discrepancy between CPU PhysX and GPU PhysX.

In response to the Real World Technologies analysis, Mike Skolones, product manager of PhysX, said[32] that SSE support had been left behind because most games are developed for consoles first and then ported to the PC. As a result, modern computers run these games faster and better than the consoles even with little or no optimization. Senior PR manager of Nvidia, Bryan Del Rizzo, explained that multithreading had already been available with CPU PhysX 2.x and that it had been up to the developer to make use of it. He also stated that automatic multithreading and SSE would be introduced with version 3 of the PhysX SDK.[33]

PhysX SDK 3.0 was released in May 2011 and represented a significant rewrite of the SDK, bringing improvements such as more efficient multithreading and a unified code base for all supported platforms.[2]


PhysX in video games[edit]

PhysX technology is used by game engines such as Unreal Engine (version 3 onwards), Unity, Gamebryo, Vision (version 6 onwards), Instinct Engine,[34] Panda3D, Diesel, Torque, HeroEngine, and BigWorld.[25]

As one of the handful of major physics engines, it is used in many games, such as The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, Warframe, Killing Floor 2, Fallout 4, Batman: Arkham Knight, Planetside 2, and Borderlands 2. Most of these games use the CPU to process the physics simulations.

Video games with optional support for hardware-accelerated PhysX often include additional effects such as tearable cloth, dynamic smoke or simulated particle debris.[35][36][37]

PhysX in other software[edit]

Other software with PhysX support includes:

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "NVIDIA PhysX SDK 4.1". Engadget. Retrieved April 5, 2022.
  2. ^ a b c "NVIDIA announces the release of PhysX SDK V3". Nvidia. Archived from the original on May 24, 2011. Retrieved June 3, 2011.
  3. ^ "NovodeX AG". ETH Zürich. Archived from the original on January 8, 2018. Retrieved December 4, 2018.
  4. ^ César A. Berardini (April 12, 2005). "AGEIA Technologies Interview". Archived from the original on September 21, 2011. Retrieved June 8, 2011.
  5. ^ "Physics Engine: PhysX". MobyGames. Retrieved September 6, 2023.
  6. ^ "NVIDIA completes Acquisition of AGEIA Technologies" (Press release). NVIDIA Corporation. February 13, 2008. Retrieved March 18, 2009.
  7. ^ "PhysX For CUDA, Linux Support A Given?". Phoronix. Phoronix Media. February 14, 2008. Retrieved February 14, 2008.
  8. ^ a b "How to restore PPU support with latest PhysX Drivers | – PhysX News". January 17, 2011. Retrieved November 30, 2011.
  9. ^ "PhysX On GitHub". Nvidia. Retrieved March 6, 2015.
  10. ^ "PhysX SDK as of January 7, 2017". Nvidia. Archived from the original on January 7, 2017. Retrieved September 3, 2017.
  11. ^ a b c "PhysX SDK". NVIDIA Developer. November 28, 2018. Archived from the original on December 5, 2018. Retrieved December 5, 2018.
  12. ^ "Open Source Simulation Expands with NVIDIA PhysX 5 Release". Nvidia. Archived from the original on May 28, 2023. Retrieved June 15, 2023.
  13. ^ "Sony Computer Entertainment Enters Into Strategic Licensing Agreement With AGEIA" (PDF) (Press release). Sony Computer Entertainment, Inc. July 21, 2005. Archived from the original (PDF) on March 11, 2006. Retrieved August 23, 2006.
  14. ^ "Playstation 3 gets free PhysX from Nvidia". Kotaku. March 18, 2009.
  15. ^ Lowe, Scott (March 7, 2013). "Nvidia Announces PhysX Support for PlayStation 4".
  16. ^ "PhysX – Overview – GeForce". Archived from the original on April 29, 2009. Retrieved November 30, 2011.
  17. ^ "NVIDIA Announces PhysX Support for Microsoft Xbox One Game Console". Archived from the original on November 9, 2014. Retrieved November 9, 2014.
  18. ^ "News – Pre-GDC: Nvidia PhysX Approved For Wii Developers". Gamasutra. March 19, 2009. Retrieved November 30, 2011.
  19. ^ "Asus 128mb PhysX Card Review/Preview". July 12, 2006.
  20. ^ "AGEIA And BFG Technologies Enter Into Retail Distribution Agreement". Archived from the original on April 26, 2006.
  21. ^ "BFG Ageia PhysX Card Review". October 1, 2007.
  22. ^ "AGEIA PhysX - graphics card - AGEIA PhysX - 128 MB Specs". Cnet.
  23. ^ "ELSA teams up with Ageia".
  24. ^ "English articles from PC Games Hardware". January 26, 2009.
  25. ^ a b "PhysX FAQ". Retrieved December 10, 2015.
  26. ^ Olin Coles. "Mafia-II Video Game Performance Review". Retrieved August 23, 2010.
  27. ^ "APEX". Retrieved June 8, 2011.
  28. ^ "Category:APEX - PhysX Wiki". Retrieved July 21, 2013.
  29. ^ "APEX 1.4.1 - Release Notes (APEX has been deprecated)". Retrieved December 5, 2018.
  30. ^ "NVIDIA FleX". NVIDIA Developer. August 13, 2015. Retrieved April 17, 2019.
  31. ^ "PhysX87: Software Deficiency".
  32. ^ Stokes, Jon (July 8, 2010). "Did NVIDIA cripple its CPU gaming physics library to spite Intel?". Retrieved November 30, 2011.
  33. ^ "Nvidia: We're not hobbling CPU PhysX | thinq_ | Page 1". Retrieved November 30, 2011.
  34. ^ "Instinct Software - Instinct Engine SDK". Archived from the original on February 13, 2015. Retrieved October 4, 2013.
  35. ^ Matt Butrovich (February 12, 2009). "A look at PhysX in Mirror's Edge". The Tech Report. Retrieved April 6, 2011.
  36. ^ Rich Brown (September 21, 2009). "Nvidia's PhysX makes PC Batman: Arkham Asylum worth the wait". Retrieved April 6, 2011.
  37. ^ Matthew Murray (September 2, 2010). "Mafia II: Is Applied PhysX Worth It?". ExtremeTech. Retrieved April 6, 2011.
  38. ^ "PhysX - Lumberyard User Guide".
  39. ^ Jim Thacker (March 1, 2011). "Videos: Autodesk reveals new features in Maya 2012". Retrieved April 6, 2011.
  40. ^ "3ds Max 2012 and Maya 2012 adds PhysX support". March 1, 2011. Archived from the original on July 8, 2017. Retrieved April 6, 2011.
  41. ^ Randall Hand (May 5, 2010). "NVidia PhysX and CUDA in Softimage 2011". Retrieved April 6, 2011.
  42. ^ "The Game Creators Integrate AGEIA PhysX Technology into DarkBASIC Professional" (Press release). The Game Creators. March 22, 2006. Archived from the original on April 27, 2006. Retrieved September 23, 2006.
  43. ^ "Overview". DX Studio. Worldweaver. Archived from the original on July 5, 2009. Retrieved November 2, 2008.
  44. ^ "AGEIA Joins Futuremark's 3DMark Benchmark Development Program". FindArticles. CBS Interactive. BusinessWire. September 27, 2006. Retrieved November 3, 2008.
  45. ^ "Simulation Overview". Microsoft Robotics Developer Center. Microsoft. March 2012.
  46. ^ Boeing, Adrian. "Engines". Physics Abstraction Layer. Retrieved November 18, 2007.
  47. ^ Pierre-Terdiman (March 22, 2019), GitHub - Pierre-Terdiman/PEEL: Physics Engine Evaluation Lab., retrieved March 22, 2019
  48. ^ "Unreal Engine 4.26 Preview". September 24, 2020.
  49. ^ "Unity - Manual: Physics".

External links[edit]