Google’s Project Ara is one of the most exciting initiatives of the recent months or maybe even years so it was no surprise that the project got its own presentation at Google I/O. The company has been boasting about countless possibilities and potential uses for its innovative phone, but all we got so far was merely theory. Until today. What happened today? For the very first time Google demoed its Ara Project modular phone and announced a challenge for developers.
Project Ara Demonstration & Challenge
Ever since Google revealed the details of Project Ara we have been hearing whispers that the idea is too crazy to succeed. Today, when Google showed off a functioning prototype, the public could see with their own eyes that it can be done. Of course, as it often happens with prototypes, not everything went as planned and the phone refused to cooperate. After a few tries Paul Eremenko, the lead for Project Ara, managed to power on the device. It got to the boot screen but then protested again and didn’t go any further.
The demonstration clearly shows that there are still a lot of things to do before we will be able to get our hands on the actual modular phone, but it also proves that seemingly unfeasible idea can be made reality thanks to perseverance and hard work. In fact, Google’s ambition extends way beyond the possibility of, for example, swapping an 8-megapixel camera for a 13-megapixel one. As Eremenko put it, the company wants to make a phone that would be able to do things “a phone has never done before”.
Try hard as they might, Google alone may not be able to make it happen and asked developers to pitch in. In addition to glory and fame, there is also a financial incentive – a prize of $100,000 for the winner. Obviously, Google is not looking merely for ideas. The winning module must be unique and operational when submitted.
Due to its non-standard construction the Ara phone can’t be made using the usual methods and processes. That’s why Google is working with 3D Systems to make the process of production faster yet simpler. According to Google, its new printers are 50x faster than traditional 3D printers and are capable of producing full-color objects at 600dpi accuracy. Google’s goal is also to increase the space for third-party modules on the PCB area from the current 30-35% to 70-75%. Finally, Google is working on improving battery life and is hoping to be able to make battery packs that could run 3x longer than existing units, though probably would have shorter life cycle.
Project Ara is a challenge not only for developers but also for Google itself. Since the company is taking a completely new approach that no one has ever taken before, the team can’t rely on previous experience or learn from the mistakes of others. It doesn’t stop the company from making progress, though. As the presentation proved, Project Ara is moving forward pretty fast and if nothing unexpected happens, we might see the first commercial units early next year. We are anxiously looking forward to that. Are you?