Google’s Project Ara, an effort to develop a modular smartphone platform, sounded at first as much like vaporware as anything we’ve ever encountered, but Google is actually making it happen. In a whimsically upbeat YouTube video, Dave Hakkens (the guy who created the Phonebloks design that appears to be the conceptual basis for Project Ara) visited the Google campus to see what progress is being made on the project.
The teams working on Project Ara have figured out a key solution to one of the first problems they encountered, which was how to keep all the modules stuck together. They decided to use electro-permanent magnets, and you can see in the video how that process works.
In terms of design, they’ve decided not to cover up the modules, instead making their very modularity part of the aesthetic appeal. 3D Systems is involved on campus, as they’re delivering the 3D printing technology to make covers for the modules.
You’ll be able to get all manner of unique covers, including (if you look closely) one that looks like LEGO, and you’ll be able to browse through the whole of Project Ara’s design universe to select from a variety of designs.
Of course, we’d all like to see more technological progress as opposed to design, but that’s coming, too. The Project Ara developer’s conference is coming up on April 15th, at which time they’ll debut the Project Ara MDK (Module Developers Kit).