Google works on so many projects, it can be hard to keep track of them all. They have put computers on our faces, sent internet balloons into the atmosphere, and created contact lenses that measure glucose through our tears. Project Ara is another example of trying to take an ambitious idea and make it possible — all while changing the way we think about smartphones in the process.
Yesterday, the Project Ara team announced a partnership with Rockchip, an Chinese system-on-a-chip manufacturer, that brings the modular smartphone future one step closer. Rockchip is known for making budget processors and entered a partnership with Intel in May to accelerate its adoption of Intel-based architecture. However, for Google and Project Ara’s needs, Rockchip’s custom SoC will need to work in a strange modular environment, meaning the chip will act more like an application processor rather than being the heart and soul of the device. Paul Eremenko, Head of Project Ara, describes Rockchip’s future contribution in a Google+ post:
In other Ara news, we just kicked off an effort with Rockchip to create a mobile SoC with a native, general-purpose UniPro interface, so that it can function as an application processor in an Ara module without the need for a bridge chip. We view this Rockchip processor as a trailblazer for our vision of a modular architecture where the processor is a node on a network with a single, universal interface — free from also serving as the network hub for all of the mobile device’s peripherals. We expect to be able to demo the Rockchip UniPro processor in our third design spiral, with a prototype anticipated in early 2015.
In April, Google said its piece-by-piece smartphone would release in January 2015, but with the third “spiral” or design of the handset, demoing the new Rockchip processor, not set for release until early 2015 could mean its a later addition or they’re pushing back the date entirely. Of course, the promise of Project Ara building the last smartphone I’d ever have to buy is a promise deserving of patience. [9to5Google]