What was once a thing of science fiction is quickly becoming real at the hands of Google. Project Ara started out of Motorola’s R&D division and was officially unveiled last October, Project Ara takes a concept we’d seen before in the Phonebloks Kickstarter into the real world. When Google sold Motorola to Lenovo at the end of last month, it kept a few parts of the company for its own uses, including patents and Motorola’s Advanced Technology and Projects (ATAP) group. ATAP has been hard at work on a number of concepts, but Project Ara is likely the most useful one for the immediate future. The concept is simple: provide consumers with a base board of sorts consisting of a circuit board, touchscreen and WiFi radio for $50, and allow consumers to purchase additional add-ons to finish the phone how they see fit. Want a massive camera but don’t really care much about gaming, or maybe your priorities are reversed and you’d like to spend more money on your CPU and graphics processor? You can design your own phone any way you like it down to individual compartmentalized components, all of which are easy and simple to switch out at your heart’s content. It’s the sort of genius that will take the yearly updating of phones to an update-whenever-you-like-it concept, and likely save the consumer some serious dough in the process.
Google is holding the first Project Ara Developers Conference on April 15th and 16th at their headquarters in Mountain View, California, and there they will debut the Project Ara Developer’s Kit. Project Ara already runs on Android, so no worries about having to adapt to a new operating system or app ecosystem since Android’s already mature selection of well over 1 billion apps will keep you going practically forever. Google is planning on opening kiosks once Project Ara is ready to go to market where consumers will be able to purchase these individual components. Project Ara head Paul Eremenko of former DARPA fame says that a functioning prototype is just weeks away, and that we will likely see Project Ara on the shelves as early as the first quarter of 2015. That means this could be the very last year you ever buy that shiny new yearly release phone, and from 2015 on only upgrade the components you feel are lacking. It’s a concept so fantastic it doesn’t feel real, but it is and it’s brought to us by Google’s amazing Google X division, who is responsible for such fantastic working projects like Google Glass, Project Tango and so many others. Google truly is the Willy Wonka of technology, and the products we seem to be getting out of them are becoming more and more fantastic and trippy with every release.