Project Ara, the modular smartphone endeavor started by Motorola before being folded into Google's ATAP (Advanced Technology and Projects) group, is making progress towards its first working prototype, according to a recent write-up by MIT's Technology Review. The publication visited NK Labs, one of the main contractors working on Project Ara, for a closer look at the work-in-progress hardware aiming to make it easy to swap out and upgrade individual parts of a smartphone's hardware. And though it's still early days for Ara, the first working prototype is expected this month, just in time for the project's first developers conference.
There's also some early information on the Project Ara base unit and modular add-ons —
On workbenches sit prototypes of memory modules, battery modules, and processor modules, all designed to slide easily in and out of an aluminum smartphone “endoskeleton.” A prototype infrared imaging lens module for night photography would protrude about a half-inch from the device. Another module would let you read your blood oxygen levels with a swipe of your finger.
The article goes on to describe "electropermanent magnets" that would attach the various modules to the endoskeleton, allowing components to be connected without additional moving parts, as well as details on how Ara could target developing markets with a low entry price. It's definitely worth a read for those pondering the module future of smartphones.
Meanwhile Google will host the first Project Ara Developer Conference on April 15-16, with a reported 3,328 attendees registered to attend.