Alibaba Cloud is close to getting Android working on RISC-V silicon

Android could soon run on RISC-V chips thanks to progress made by Alibaba Cloud in porting the operating system to the emerging Instruction Set Architecture (ISA).

Last year, the Chinese cloud giant managed to transfer basic functions, including Chrome browsing in Android 10, to a RISC-V chip made by its subsidiary T-Head Semiconductor.

However, Alibaba Cloud went even further by working on porting Android 12 to RISC-V. The company has also decided to enable modules from third-party vendors to facilitate a number of new functions, including audio and video playback, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and camera operation.

To help facilitate these new functions, Alibaba Cloud has enabled more system enhancement features such as core toolsets, third-party libraries, and SoC board support package on RISC-V. Additionally, the company has successfully tested TensorFlow Lite models on RISC-V to support AI functions such as image and audio classification as well as optical character recognition (OCR).

Alibaba Senior Director Jianyi Meng provided further information on the company’s progress with RISC-V in a press release, saying:

“Additional support for Android12, Vendor Modules and AI Framework on RISC-V based devices is another major milestone we achieved. We look forward to further contributing to the RISC-V community with our advanced technology and resources, and to fostering more innovation in the community with global developers.

Reference MLPerf Tiny

If porting Android to RISC-V wasn’t enough, Alibaba Cloud’s RISC-V-based Xuantie C906 processor recently achieved top marks in the MLPerf Tiny v0.7 AI benchmark which focuses on IoT devices.

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The Xuantie C906 excelled in all four main categories of the benchmark: visual wake words, image classifications, keyword spotting, and anomaly detection. Alibaba’s bespoke processor performance shows the potential of the RISC-V framework to realize bespoke AI functions using extremely low computing power.

Meanwhile, Alibaba’s RISC-V-based processors have already been deployed in a wide range of applications and use cases, including smart home appliances, automotive environments and edge computing.

The CEO of RISC-V International commended Alibaba’s work in developing the RISC-V ecosystem, especially with regards to AI for IoT, saying:

“AI for IoT is a highly competitive field where customization at all levels is essential to achieve breakthrough new ultra-low-power results. Alibaba continues to build RISC-V industry leadership alongside its dedication and its contribution to the global RISC-V community.

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