An open hardware platform to create modular smartphones was unveiled by Motorola - the Project Ara. The project is centred on building modular smartphones wherein the parts snap onto the body of the smartphone. The concept calls for an edoskeleton or a base unit that makes the frame to the smartphone, after which a slew of modules that extend the functionality is added by snapping onto the thing.
In simple terms, you can upgrade your display and other smartphone features by shopping from different vendors. The modules "can be anything," according to Motorola, giving examples ranging from battery to keyboard to more unusual component like a pulse oximeter which can measure the oxygen saturation of the user. The list actually goes on and on, as there will be a wide-array of modules to choose from.
"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." Paul Eremenko and Motorola Advanced Technology and Projects Group, Project Ara Team, said in a blog.
The project will be collaborating with Phonebloks. Phonebloks is a community that aims to utilise blocks to build "a phone worth keeping." According to Dave Hakkens, the site creator, they are running Blokstore that functions like an app store for hardware.
"The market of electronic devices is growing rapidly, but it feels like we are building disposable stuff," Hakkens further said.
"Every time we make something new we completely throw away the old one. Imagine all the good displays, bluetooths and speakers we have thrown away. I love the connected world that we live in and it's time to set up a universal modular platform that companies work on together."
As such, the Project Ara will combine the Phoneblok community and the extensive technical work of Motorola. "The power of open requires both," Eremenko further wrote.
Currently, Motorola is soliciting Ara Scouts who will be doing the research over the next six to twelve months.
In several months, the Project Ara team will be sending invites to several developers to make modules for the Project Ara platform. The alpha release is expected this coming winter.
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