Inside Google’s Project Ara and Their Modular Smartphone Plans

February 27, 2014 - Written By Jeremiah Nelson

First announced on October 29th of last year, Google’s Project Ara is one of the ideas it is holding on to as it sells Motorola to Lenovo. It started as an idea called Phonebloks, dreamt up by Dave Hakkens. Hakkens was an industrial design student from the Netherlands when he began pondering the idea of a modular phone and what it could mean for the mobile industry as well as the global ecological impact of consumers throwing out their old devices. “If you have a bike and you get a flat tire,” he thought, “you don’t throw it away and buy a new bike.” He made an in intro video and garnered the support of almost 1 million people on Thunderclap. His YouTube video now has over 19 million views. People were interested, and so was Google.

Time Tech has a pretty extensive deep dive into Project Ara, where it came from, and where Google could be taking it. Motorola was smitten with the idea, but others were not so convinced. There’s an entire reddit thread dedicated to shooting holes in the idea that modular devices like this can actually work. Google is aiming to proving the doubters wrong. They are forging ahead with Project Ara, and they are doing it more quickly than any of us thought it could happen.

When Google sold Motorola to Lenovo, they decided to keep Motorola’s development arm and dubbed it the Advanced Technologies and Projects (ATAP) division. ATAP is headed by Regina Dugan, who came from the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). DARPA comes up with ideas, builds them, and tests them for the U.S. government’s defense arm. Now she is making things for Google. In fact, Project Ara itself is headed up by a former DARPA employee, Paul Eremenko. And they already have a functioning prototype of a modular Project Ara smartphone.

If you’re actively interested in the history and potential future of Project Ara, or you are just curious, you should hit the source link below and head over to Time and read up on the project from start to finish. Google has announced a Project Ara developer’s conference that will take place via live stream in April. We’ll know more about Project Ara and where it’s headed before too long.