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Google says it’s making decent progress with RISC-V compatibility on Android. The company has designated a set of extensions that will allow a RISC-V CPU to run the operating system. Currently it supports only a simple Android Open Source Project (AOSP) application, but it may be a first step toward an alternative to ARM on Android devices.

Google employees Lars Bergstrom and Greg Simon admit that support is not yet fully optimized. A mature backend for the Android Runtime (ART) is still under development. Currently, the RISC-V project for Android is in a phase that can begin to allow “experimentation and collaboration”.

Unlike ARM and x86 architectures, for example, RISC-V is royalty-free and open-source. However, certain extensions are still only available behind a payment wall, although the architecture is characterized by its high degree of modularity. As it happens, anyone using Google’s Pixel 6, 7 or 8 already uses RISC-V: the Titan M2 security module runs on this architecture.

Wearables as the first application

The blog post mentions that wearables will likely be the first Android devices with a RISC-V chip. This is an unsurprising choice: even in other fields, the specific choice of a relatively simple wearable makes sense as a means to bring an innovation to market. For example, a Whoop fitness tracker has a battery that replaces the traditional graphite of an anode with silicon. In a similar vein, RISC-V will be able to mature within the Android ecosystem to eventually run on more complicated hardware.

Google is working with the RISE (RISC-V Software Ecosystem) Project to look beyond just Android in developing RISC-V. That project is supported by many major industry players, such as Qualcomm, Nvidia and Samsung. In addition, Google is investing in RISC-V International, which organizes events for RISC-V projects.

Also read: Linux Foundation working on RISC-V Software Ecosystem (RISE)