Google Project Ara preview

Google. Well, it's got a new idea for a phone. But not just any kind of phone.
You see Google's looked around at the last six years of smartphone design progress, from practical but dull multi-ported devices to hermetically sealed handsets of pure beauty, and decided to throw it all away.
Instead, it wants your future smartphone to be modular.
Project Ara - Google's working title for the endeavour - was announced in October last year, to a fair bit of scepticism. 
Yet now that the first prototypes have been shown off, along with a lengthy document explaining how it will work, there’s a very good chance that this could be the most significant and popular of all Google’s hardware projects.
And given that this is the company which brought us self-driving cars, a photograph of every single square metre of almost every street on Earth, personal heads-up displays and universal internet access delivered by dirigibles, that's saying something.
Project Ara is a concept for a modular phone handset which Google says it will be able to get on sale in January 2015.
At its heart, an Ara handset is a simple metal frame known as an 'endo' (short for 'endoskeleton'). These come in three sizes – mini, medium and large – which have grids of 10, 18 and 27 square spaces on the back, arranged in groups of 1, 2 or 4.
The front of an endo accepts a removable screen, while modules will be available to fill the slots on the back. So owners can fully customise their phone by adding in a 4G modem, for example, or a 5GHz WiFi module, or removing things that they don't use such as a fingerprint reader.
More experimental phone owners might even look to add pico-projectors or remote controls, while the potential for adding in medical sensors for specialised use hasn't been overlooked either.


A fortunate accident just before the first Ara Developers Conference made the benefits of an Ara handset clear.
Google Project Ara review
The night before the first functioning prototype was due to go on stage for its debut, someone dropped it and broke the screen. But, as Project Ara head Paul Eremenko joked during the presentation, once the phone is on the market, it'll be a simple matter to replace the screen by swapping out the front module for a new one.
The same is obviously true for any other modules - if you're a big photography fan, and a new camera module is released, you'll be able to upgrade your phone without getting a whole new body; if you're a power user and want extra battery life, just add another one.
The Ara team say that this means less waste, and since parts can be updated rather than thrown away the average lifespan of a phone will increase from two to five years. The downside, of course, is that modular components may end up costing more than a mass produced all-in-one (although Google is aiming to produce a basic handset for a very reasonable US$50) and may not be as robust.


Google Project Ara - Design 2Google Project Ara - Design 3
While there's some concerns over the ability to make lots of highly compatible components – think back to the dark days of PC upgrades and driver conflicts – the method of connecting Ara parts together is very elegant. The modules and endos will literally stick together using 'electropermanent' magnets: powerful magnets that can be turned off and on. 
At this stage, the design calls for all components including the battery to be hot-swappable – ie removable without shutting the phone down. As a result, there's a backup battery inside the endo to keep the phone running no matter what.

Structure and features

Ara frames
FrameSizeRear module slots
Mini45 × 118 × 9.7 mm2 × 5
Medium68 × 141 × 9.7 mm3 × 6
Large91 × 164 × 9.7 mm4 × 7
Ara phones are built using modules inserted into metal endo skeletal frames known as "endos". The frame will be the only component in an Ara phone made by Google.[10] It acts as the switch to the on-device network linking all the modules together. There will be two frame sizes available at first: "mini", a frame about the size of a Nokia 3310 and "medium", about the size of a LG Nexus 5. In the future, a "large" frame about the size of a Samsung Galaxy Note 3 will be available. Frames have slots on the front for the display and other modules. On the back are additional slots for modules. Each frame is expected to cost around US$15. The data from the modules can be transferred at up to 10gigabits/sec per connection. The 2×2 modules have two connections and will allow up to 20gigabits/sec. This is to procrastinate the time of obsoletion by as much as possible.
Modules can provide common smartphone features, such as cameras and speakers, but can also provide more specialized features, such as medical devices, receipt printers, laser pointers, pico projectorsnight vision sensors, or game controller buttons. Each slot on the frame will accept any module of the correct size. The front slots are of various heights and take up the whole width of the frame. The rear slots come in standard sizes of 1×1, 1×2 and 2×2. Modules can be hot-swapped without turning the phone off.The frame also includes a small backup battery so the main battery can be hot-swapped. Modules are secured with electropermanent magnets. The enclosures of the modules are 3D-printed, so customers can design their own individual enclosures and replace them as they wish.
Modules will be available both at an official Google store and at third-party stores. Ara phones will only accept official modules by default, but users can change a software setting to enable unofficial modules. This is similar to how Android handles app installations.

1.Pico projectors

Handheld projector (also known as a pocket projectormobile projectorpico projector or mini beamer) is technology that applies the use of an image projector in an handheld device. It is a response to the emergence/development of compact portable devices such as mobile phonespersonal digital assistants, and digital cameras, which have sufficient storage capacity to handle presentation materials but little space to accommodate an attached display screen. Handheld projectors involve miniaturized hardware and software that can project digital images onto any nearby viewing surface.
The Nikon Coolpix S1000pjcompact camera projecting an image using its built-in projector

2.Night vision

Night vision is the ability to see in low light conditions. Whether by biological or technological means, night vision is made possible by a combination of two approaches: sufficient spectral range, and sufficient intensity range. Humans have poor night vision compared to many animals, in part because the human eye lacks a tapetum lucidum

3.Electropermanent magnets

An electropermanent magnet is a type of magnet which consists of both an electromagnet and a dual material permanent magnet, in which the magnetic field produced by the electromagnet is used to change the magnetization of the permanent magnet. The permanent magnet consists of magnetically hard and soft materials, of which only the soft material can have its magnetization changed. When the magnetically soft and hard materials have opposite magnetizations the magnet has no net field, and when they are aligned the magnet displays magnetic behaviour.
They allow creating controllable permanent magnets where the magnetic effect can be maintained without requiring a continuous supply of electrical energy. For these reasons, electropermanent magnets are essential components of the research studies aiming to build programmable magnets that can give rise to self-building structures.
Google plans to use electropermanent magnets in their upcoming modular phone "Project Ara". These magnets will be used to hold the modules into the exoskeleton without requiring a permanent power source.