Google’s Project Ara – The Modular Android Smartphone

project ara

During an I/O panel last Friday, Google showed off it’s Project Ara, an Android smartphone with mix and match pieces of hardware.

A permanent phone is held in the frame of the 5.3-inch device, and users can add or remove up to six rectangular and square modules without needing to restart the phone. The idea behind this is to design a phone that’s versatile, highly customizable and can be upgraded one module at a time instead of users having to purchase a brand new phone ever couple of years.

For example, users can add a fitness tracker, different types of cameras, a fresh battery, professional grade speakers or microphone, health tools, gaming modules or an E ink screen.

A developer model of Ara will be released sometime this fall. Instead of creating smartphone apps, Google is inviting developers to create their own hardware modules. Google is also collaborating with companies like Sony, iHealth, Panasonic and E Ink on customized modules.

First debuted in 2014, and originally set for release in 2015, Ara has been a long time coming. The delay in release was most likely caused by some major changes at Google. The company has become a subsidiary of Alphabet. The head of ATAP, Google’s experimental Advanced Technology and Products group, Regina Dugan left to go to Facebook, and Rick Osterloh was hired to head Google’s hardware unit.

Currently, Project Ara is moving away from ATAP and becoming its own business unit within Google. ATAP has plenty of other projects to work on such as Project Soil, that uses radar to detect gestures so users can control devices by moving their hand. A smartwatch and speaker prototype using Project Soil was debuted on Friday and Google is planning a developer kit for 2017. ATAP also unveiled an item of clothing made with Project Jacquard smart fabric. The jacket from Levi’s Commuter Trucker line had sleeves that work as touch sensitive surfaces so users can tap their arm to reject a phone call.

Check out the video below to find out more about Project Ara

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