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Last Updated: September 4th, 2014

Project Ara is still going strong, and Google demonstrated it at I/O at the ATAP presentation. Project Ara Technical Lead Paul Eremenko talks up the modular phone platform in the video below (starting at around 23:30), bringing the concept beyond simple phone component upgrades. "What if a phone could see in the dark? What if a phone could test if water is clean?" The collaborative Ara team wants the hardware to be just as flexible as the larger Android ecosystem.

They showed off a working, self-contained Ara "Spiral" prototype phone for the first time, with all the hot-swappable modules installed and a build of Android running. The Franken-phone with exposed wires and scuffed-up plastic modules was powered on with a manual electronic switch. After about 30 seconds, the Android OS began to boot... and then crashed. The crowd was not deterred. Check out the full video if you want to see the hardware, software, and design challenges that are currently occupying the Ara team's time. We don't know when Ara is intended for a consumer rollout, if indeed it's possible, but it's clear that Google's skunkworks department really wants to make this happen.

ara prototype

Google also wants developers outside of Mountain View to get in on the action. To that end they've started two new programs: one will send out developer hardware on a merit basis, and another will award prizes to developers with the most promising ideas. If you want to get your hands on the DevBoards for hardware and software prototypes, you can head to this website, tell Google what you intend to do with it, and hope that they think you're up to the challenge. Right now there are three boards: an application processor based on a TI OMAP 4460 chip, a UniPro switch board, and an endpoint board for more unique applications. At present Google has very limited hardware to send out, so you'll have to agree to the evaluation program and really wow them with your proposal. There should be wider availability in the fall.

The first Developer Prize Challenge will award $100,000 to a developer with the best idea for a new Ara module. The team is looking for proposals for hardware "that would be used daily, and for something you can’t do with a smartphone today." Entries must be presented in a five-minute video proposal, to be submitted by September 1st. Two runners-up will get a paid trip to a future Ara developer event. Check out the official Prize page if you'd like to enter.

Source: YouTube

Michael Crider
Michael is a native Texan and a former graphic designer. He's been covering technology in general and Android in particular since 2011. His interests include folk music, football, science fiction, and salsa verde, in no particular order.

  • Andrew

    Anyone have really cool ideas for modules? I think a built-in credit card slot would be really cool...

    • Ark

      They said something that couldn't already be done with smartphones.

      • jonzey231

        My current smartphone isn't capable of having a "built-in" slot. I'm forced to use my headphone jack. A built it reader would be tenfold better than one hooked into a 3.5mm jack.

        • Andrew

          Exactly.

    • WORPspeed

      a detacheable BT earpiece?
      a slot to hold your keys?
      a small airbag in case you drop your phone?
      a soft rubberized weighted corner module (extra heavy so it is likely to hit the ground first and with rubber and other stuff to dampen the blow)?
      a fuelcell additional battery module?
      a module with several pins in it that in and pop out to form words/letters in braille (no idea what it could be used for, but hey, its new)
      a built in OTG USB module?

  • Matthew Toomey

    Schwing!

  • Shamu

    Looks like a lot of hard work, hope it all works out for them.

  • Jephri

    Here are some ideas
    Taser module
    Breathalyzer module
    Meat thermometer module
    Solar/wind/Kinnect energy capture module
    Micro tool removable module (think micro leatherman)
    Firestarter module
    Infrared camera module
    HD microphone module
    Micro Projector module
    Laser keyboard module
    Airbag that deploys when dropped module
    Detachable wireless camera module (stick it to a wall and view what it captures on your phone)
    Iris scanner module
    Micro fan module (for hot summer days)
    Smoke/carbon monoxide detector module (useful when camping)
    Kickstand module
    3d camera module
    Detachable homing beacon module
    Full size USB cable attachment module
    Dual sided attached module for securing two devices to each other creating a dual screen device.
    Micro E-Ink display module for low text notes and notifications on rear of Phone
    Siren module capable of making super loud alarms for theft prevention
    Strobe light module with multiple LED
    Garage door opener module
    Floss dispenser module
    Metal detector module
    UV light decontaminator module (useful for parents)

    Ok. Out of ideas... For now

    • Ark

      retractable shank

      • Lisandro O Oocks

        Bottle opener?

    • Jephri

      Just thought of another. Blood glucose reader for diabetics.

    • Me

      Shark repellent module

      • Jephri

        Brilliant

    • danishdhanshe

      Lazer beam module?

    • L.

      Go Go Gadg.. ehm Ara!

  • Jephri

    Poor guy

  • Davis Hernandez

    25:07 there's a ara with a gamepad attached... does that mean we'll get the ara shield? xD (but seriously that looks promising)

  • littlevince

    Only intended to watch the part of the video about Ara but the video was so interesting I could stop... The ATAP team is really quite incredible.

  • TedPhillips

    I was sad its screen was broken, looked like it got banged around in transit to I/O.

    At first i thought it was going to be part of the live demo - "Bust 'yo screen? swap in a new one in 5 seconds!"

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