Over the last six months, our MAKEwithMOTO team took Sticky, a truck wrapped entirely in velcro and filled with rooted, hackable Motorola smartphones and high-end 3D printing equipment, across the country for a series of make-a-thons. On that trip we saw the first signs of a new, open hardware ecosystem made possible by advances in additive manufacturing and access to the powerful computational capabilities of modern smartphones. These included new devices and applications that we could never have imagined from inside our own labs. Open fuels innovation. See some examples here, here, and here.
After the trip, we asked ourselves, how do we bring the benefits of an open hardware ecosystem to 6 billion people?
Led by Motorola’s Advanced Technology and Projects group, Project Ara is developing a free, open hardware platform for creating highly modular smartphones. 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.
Our goal is to drive a more thoughtful, expressive, and open relationship between users, developers, and their phones. To give you the power to decide what your phone does, how it looks, where and what it’s made of, how much it costs, and how long you’ll keep it.
Here’s a sneak peek at early designs for Project Ara:
The design for Project Ara consists of what we call an endoskeleton (endo) and modules. The endo is the structural frame that holds all the modules in place. A module can be anything, from a new application processor to a new display or keyboard, an extra battery, a pulse oximeter–or something not yet thought of!
We’ve been working on Project Ara for over a year. Recently, we met Dave Hakkens, the creator of Phonebloks. Turns out we share a common vision: to develop a phone platform that is modular, open, customizable, and made for the entire world. We’ve done deep technical work. Dave created a community. The power of open requires both. So we will be working on Project Ara in the open, engaging with the Phonebloks community throughout our development process, as well as asking questions to our Project Ara research scouts (volunteers interested in helping us learn about how people make choices). In a few months, we will also send an invitation to developers to start creating modules for the Ara platform (to spice it up a bit, there might be prizes!). We anticipate an alpha release of the Module Developer’s Kit (MDK) sometime this winter.
So stay tuned. There will be a lot more coming from us in the next few months.
–Paul Eremenko, and the Motorola Advanced Technology and Projects group, Project Ara Team