February 26, 2014 By: Will Verduzco
Ever since the former Googorola’s ambitious Project Ara was first announced back in late October, many have been impatiently waiting for modular smartphones to make their way into consumer hands. Since then, we’ve talked a bit about some of the project’s potential pitfalls, as well as the first steps towards making it a reality. We even created a forum for Ara (and MDK Hacking and Development in general) in order to help encourage would-be developers to get started with module development.
When Googorola became Motonovo, many were worried about the future of Project Ara and the ATAP team as a whole. Luckily, we soon learned that ATAP would trade hands into Google’s possession. And now, the ATAP team has announced that they will be holding a Project Ara Developers’ Conference on April 15 and 16.
Those looking to start developing modules for Project Ara should register for the Developers’ Conference. The event will be streamed live via an Internet webcast, but a few lucky registrants will be invited to attend in person. Head to the source links below to learn more, and don’t forget to visit our Project Ara forum to get in on the MDK Hacking discussion!
December 7, 2013 By: Will Verduzco
Remember that ambitious modular smartphone platform project that Motorola announced a little over a month ago? Despite the backing from Motorola and now a 3D Printing hardware manufacturing partner, many have written off Project Ara as technically improbable and realistically impossible. Well, perhaps we shouldn’t be so quick to downplay this potential game-changer.
According to Motorola CEO Dennis Woodside, Project Ara is very much real. So real, in fact, that Dennis stated in an interview with YouTuber Marques Brownlee that a working prototype is just around the corner. While not much was revealed about the device will function, he reiterated the goals of the project:
There is a prototype, and it is pretty close. The idea is you have a skeleton that holds together a set of components, and the components slide in and out. If we have the interfaces and the protocols that enable the speaker to speak directly to the CPU, then this would all be possible.
While vague, this hints at an interface protocol in the MDK, which will be used to standardize all input directly interface with the device processor. Unfortunately, no such standardized protocol currently exists, so there are some large technical hurdles to be overcome. Furthermore, with modularity and standardized interfaces generally comes added bulk. And given recent hipster trends, an extra millimeter or a fruity logo can mean the difference between a device that is considered cool and one that is not.
In addition to the technical challenges, the rest of the increasingly disposable mobile technology industry may not be ready to adopt a user-upgradeable and user-serviceable alternative. This could potentially limit OEM and ODM adoption, as well as keep prices prohibitively high.
Finally, Dennis Woodside also briefly touched upon the success of Moto Maker for the Moto X, and the consumer demand for customizable devices. As such, it’s not unreasonable to anticipate that if and when Ara comes to fruition, it will be launched through Moto Maker. As stated by Dennis:
Moto Maker was the beginning of a more exciting and longer term story, which is how do we involve consumers and give them more choice. Ara is much further out, but you can see how those two things tie together and how as we introduce new materials into Moto Maker we’re gonna pursue that theme across our product line going forward.
What we’d like to eventually get to is functionality within the device, and that’s where Project Ara and Moto Maker may converge.
What are your thoughts on Project Ara? Are you hopeful about its potential or are you too skeptical that its lofty goals will see fruition. Share your thoughts and ideas in the comments below, and also be sure to make your way over to the MDK Hacking and Discussion forum to get in on the MDK action.
The full interview can be found below, and it is definitely worth your watch if you have any interest in the future of Google-owned Motorola, its upcoming products, or Project Ara and customizable smartphones.
November 22, 2013 By: Will Verduzco
We first broke the news on Motorola’s ambitious Project Ara a little under a month ago. Not too long afterward, we gave it a special place in our forum. This is a place where potential module developers can talk about the Module Developer’s Kit (MDK) and building add-ons for the platform, as well as discuss the viability of Project Ara as a whole. Unfortunately, we haven’t heard much about the project since then.
Now, Motorola has taken the first steps in bringing Ara to life by partnering with 3D printing manufacturer 3D Systems. The company’s President and CEO Avi Reichental believes that the technology is particularly suited for the task:
Project Ara was conceived to build a platform that empowers consumers all over the world with customization for a product made by and for the individual. 3D printing promotes a level of sustainability, functionality, and mass personalization that turns these kinds of global ambitions into attainable local realities. Project Ara combines two exponential technologies, and we expect that the resulting high-throughput advanced manufacturing platform will have far reaching implications on the entire digital thread that stitches together the factory of the future.
Head over to the source link to read the full press release, and don’t forget to head over to the Project Ara forums to share your ideas for modules and get in on the discussion. Are you excited for Ara? Do you think this will actually come to fruition one day? Let us know in the comments below!
November 4, 2013 By: Will Verduzco
Not too long ago, we covered Motorola’s ambitious Project Ara. The project is centered around the idea that a smartphone can be an open and modular platform, and one that end users can upgrade and repair at will. While there are still almost countless logistical hurdles to overcome, the project and the similar Phonebloks concept by Dave Hakkens both promise many potential benefits if executed properly.
Alongside the project’s unveiling, Motorola also stated plans to release the basic building blocks, the Module Developer’s Kit (MDK), this winter. The MDK is intended at letting developers create modules for the Ara platform. As such, we’ve created a new forum where users can discuss Project Ara, as well as modules and module ideas.
To get started talking about your module creation plans, or to simply talk about what you’d like to see in Project Ara, head over to the newly created MDK Hacking and Discussion forum.
Remember that far-reaching and seemingly unrealistic Phonebloks concept by Dave Hakkens from early last month? The vast majority of us shrugged off the idea as unrealistic.
There are many reasons why one would think an idea such as Phonebloks would never come to fruition. After all, there are quite a few hurdles getting in the way, not the least of which is the fact that given the current model of smartphone production and planned obsoletion, it is not in an OEM’s best interest to produce something that can actually last. As electronics are becoming cheaper and cheaper, they are also becoming increasingly disposable.
Furthermore, smartphones are designed to be small, lightweight, and make efficient use of their limited physical volume. Because of these key issues, modular interfaces similar to what we’ve seen in the desktop computing realm have not extended over to mobile. Although it’s important to note that these aren’t so much technical hurdles, as they are implementation setbacks.
Well, it looks like despite the apparent roadblocks, Motorola has been conjuring up something similar in their Advanced Technology and Projects group for over a year. As a followup to their cross-country MAKEwithMOTO project trip, Ara is about developing a free and open hardware platform for the creation of a modular smartphone.
In their words:
After the trip, we asked ourselves, how do we bring the benefits of an open hardware ecosystem to 6 billion people?
Led by Motorola’s Advanced Technology and Projects group, Project Ara is developing a free, open hardware platform for creating highly modular smartphones. We want to do for hardware what the Android platform has done for software: create a vibrant third-party developer ecosystem, lower the barriers to entry, increase the pace of innovation, and substantially compress development timelines.
Our goal is to drive a more thoughtful, expressive, and open relationship between users, developers, and their phones. To give you the power to decide what your phone does, how it looks, where and what it’s made of, how much it costs, and how long you’ll keep it.
Motorola anticipates that the basic building blocks, the Module Developer’s Kit (MDK) will be available this winter. This will allow (presumably hardware) developers to create modules for the Ara platform. And to help bolster the effort, the Project Ara team has been working with Dave Hakkens (the Phonebloks guy) to leverage the Phonebloks community because in their mind, “The power of open requires both [hardware and software].”
Despite how unrealistic this all seems with current technology and implementations, this has the potential to be quite interesting—especially if there is sufficient developer and OEM support. We can’t help but feel a bit skeptical that OEMs would be willing to commoditize their offerings and then only compete on raw specs and price, rather than value added feature and marketing buzzwords.
What are your thoughts on this? Do you think this is realistic? Would you buy a modular phone, even if it meant an initially higher investment? We are highly excited to see what the future holds for Project Ara, even if we are a tad bit skeptical about how practical it will be, as well as how it will compete with regards to physical size.
Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below!
[Many thanks to everyone who sent in the tip!]