Google to bring Project Ara modular smartphone to developers this fall 2016

Google’s Project Ara modular smartphone expected to release in 2017

The Advanced Technology and Projects (ATAP) team at Google announced at the annual developer session at Google I/O 2016 that it will be launching its much-awaited modular phone known as Project Ara. The phone will be available in beta form to the developers in Q4 2016. The team is already working on a consumer version that’s expected to be released next year.

“Ara has made so much progress this year, it’s actually spun out into a new business unit run by Richard Woolridge [the chief operating officer of ATAP],” Google said. “We’ve implemented a new set of technologies to create a seamless experience. Most importantly we put it where it counts.”

According to Google ATAP engineering lead Rafa Camargo, Project Ara is a flexible and future-proof phone, which means that it could last for several years.

“We’ve integrated the phone technology in the frame that frees up space for modules that
will create and integrate new functionality that you cannot get on your smartphone today,” said Camargo.

The handset will have swappable components that you can swop out according to your needs. Users can customize their device according to their preferences and allow them upgrade certain parts whenever they see fit. The modules that it comes with are designed to work with a variety of form factors, likely extending beyond the smartphone.

“Future frames can be larger, they can be smaller, or something completely different than a smartphone,” told ATAP. Enabled devices will have six generic slots that can be customized according to your desire.

The modules can extend much further than speakers, cameras, and even secondary displays. For instance, it could help someone check insulin levels if they have diabetes. Google is partnering with several companies, including Sony, Samsung, Panasonic, Harman, E-Ink, Cohero Health, and more, to bring all kinds of modules and devices to market.

Also, Google has also been creating its own modules, including ones for high-quality speakers, high-resolution cameras, high-capacity storage, as well as decorative wood, concrete, and colorful modules for personalization.

The Google ATAP team is promising that the consumer version of Ara will be “thin, light and beautiful” in time for next spring. Google is also working on giving developers more access to tools that it calls the first “truly modular computing platform.” It thinks it to be the equivalent of a software API: “We wanted to create a hardware ecosystem on the scale of the software app ecosystem.”

For more information about Ara, developers can go to Ara’s website to sign up, or express their interest in developing a module.

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