What Is ‘Fuchsia’, The Mysterious New OS Being Developed By Google?

Google has never shied away from building operating systems — just look at Chrome OS and Android. The thing is, they’re both based on Linux and while it’s open-source and incredibly flexible, it might not be up to the task for Google’s future conquests. Enter “Fuchsia”, a new, non-Linux OS the company appears to be developing.

Recently, a new code repository appeared on GitHub and Google Source, called “Fuchsia”. It comes with the following description:

Pink + Purple == Fuchsia (a new Operating System)

In terms of an official explanation, a Markdown document in the repo is about as good as it gets. Fuchsia will use a custom version of LittleKernel, called “Magenta”, that will be tuned for “modern phones and modern personal computers with fast processors”:

LK is a Kernel designed for small systems typically used in embedded applications. It is good alternative to commercial offerings like FreeRTOS or ThreadX. Such systems often have a very limited amount of ram, a fixed set of peripherals and a bounded set of tasks.
On the other hand, Magenta targets modern phones and modern personal computers with fast processors, non-trivial amounts of ram with arbitrary peripherals doing open ended computation.

There’s a lot of ideas on the purpose of the new platform, from augmented reality applications to simple peripherals. A user by the name of “pavlov” on Hacker News did some digging into the repository and uncovered a few interesting tidbits that suggest Fuchsia could be destined for extremely graphics-focused tasks closer to AR:

For rendering, Fuchsia includes a project called Escher which is described as a physically based renderer that supports soft shadows, light diffusion and other advanced effects. Looking at the source code, Escher is designed to use either OpenGL or Vulkan as the underlying graphics API. (There’s an iOS example project included in Escher’s source tree. Would be interesting to build that.)

The post goes on to speculate on Escher’s role:

It’s not immediately obvious why a lightweight operating system would need a renderer that can do realtime soft shadows and light effects…! But I think the idea here is to build an UI layer that’s designed from scratch for Google’s Material design language. Shadows and subtle color reflections are a major part of that “layered paper” aesthetic.

No doubt we’ll hear more as developers start poking around and compiling code and Google itself makes Fuchsia’s destiny clear.

Fuchsia [GitHub, via Y Combinator]

Originally published on Gizmodo Australia.

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