Google Reveals Prototype of 'Project Ara' Customizable Modular Smartphone

Until now Google has remained relatively quiet about its modular smartphone, codenamed Project Ara, since its first developer conferences around the device last April. Now the company has announced two more developer conferences. The first will take place January 14, 2015, in Mountain View, Calif., as well as satellite Google offices in New York City, Buenos Aires, and London. The second conference, which will repeat the agenda, will be held on January 21, 2015 in Singapore, and satellite locations in Bangalore, Tokyo, Taipei, and Shanghai.

“The principal focus of this second Module Developers Conference will be the next major release of the Ara Module Developers Kit (MDK) -- version 0.20,” Paul Eremenko, head of Project Ara at Google ATAP, says in a blog post.” We have been hard at work maturing and improving the Ara platform, and we will highlight the major changes and advances in the MDK. We will also demo the latest Ara prototype and developer hardware. We will highlight some ongoing module development efforts from select developers. And we will share early plans for a market pilot in 2015.”

Ara sprung up in part out of Phonebloks, a proof of concept by Dave Hakkens, a designer in The Netherlands. The idea is to create a fully customizable smartphone comprised of modules that can be easily swapped out like LEGOs to give the phone different functionalities. Ultimately users will have control over everything from the size/type of screen, camera, memory, wireless capability, and any other functions that module developers can dream up.

While current models are injection molded, Google has said it is experimenting with 3D printing to produce the phones and individual modules. Ara isn't an official Google project yet but the company is eyeing a limited market pilot sometime in 2015.

Interested parties can register for the developer's conference here.

Jump to the 1:45 mark to watch a working model of Project Ara in action:

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