“OK Google, eject the camera,” says Rafa Camargo, Ara‘s technical project lead, and the module pops open flawlessly, evoking loud cheers from the crowd.
It’s been a year since Google‘s Ara made a public appearance and many of us have been musing on whether the much-hyped project simply went south.
But the Google I/O 2016 conference just revived the hopes and breathed in new expectations. Much has changed at the company. Project Ara is now an independent unit, run by Richard Wooldridge, former Motorola executive. Rafa Camargo replaced Paul Eremenko to become a new technical wizard. Yet the goal remains the same, that is, creating a mobile device out of interchangeable parts that can be effortlessly swapped at once to come up with phone’s unique personality.
There’s been a lot of progress this year, reassures Camargo, trying to dispel any doubts. Google is creating an entire ecosystem that anyone can contribute to. The prototype pictured at the conference displays six modules. All slots are generic and can support any functionality. Each props up impressive 11.9 gigabits of data per second, in both directions, over interconnected UniPro platform. And the phone only consumes a third of USB 3 power. Basically, it can handle enduring all-you-name tasks.
Modules have become Google’s key focus. Rather than building a separate piece for processor, RAM or hard drive, the company has packed them into the standard frame. Instead, the team centered on connecting modules and creating seamless user experience.
The modules represent “fun and improved functionality”. The customary batch includes speakers, camera and additional storage.
They also come in wood, concrete and different colors. Google has also come up with dummy modules, whose unique purpose is to style the phone and look cool.
Moreover, there are secondary displays, additional sensors and pretty much any technology that you find on today’s smartphone.
Ara is not only a combination of beauty and functionality, but it also tries to solve specific user needs. For example, a glucometer module would address anxiety of people diagnosed with diabetes. Or the DO-RA module, radiation dosimeter, that we mentioned before. In other words, possibilities are only bound by your imagination.
So, what’s next for Ara you might wonder restlessly. Well, the Developer’s kits will be ready for shipping this fall. And the company needs your help to pitch in with any creative ideas.
The consumer version, “slim and beautiful”, is expected in 2017. Meanwhile, a moment of appreciation of what a mobile revolution might look like in a video below. And stay tuned for more!