Today, Google’s dream of a modular smartphone — an initiative dubbed Project Ara — has inched one step closer to reality.
While technologically ambitious, a device in which different blocks can be affixed and detached — keyboards, cameras, batteries, speakers and storage, for instance — would allow for radical personalization in terms of both functionality and aesthetics.
The Project Ara team released a video showcasing one of its first working prototypes, the Spiral 1. Though clunky, an improved version called the Spiral 2 will be unveiled at a developer conference in January.
In the video, Ara Knaian, a tech lead for whom the project is named, explains that the Spiral 1 doesn’t leave a lot of space for developers, who will eventually be able to create various modules that attach to the phone’s frame. With the forthcoming Spiral 2, however, “most of the area should be available for the developers function” thanks to custom chips created by Toshiba, Knaian says.
Knaian also describes the “magic moment” of finally receiving physical prototype parts after having envisioned the device for months, and recounts his delight when the gadget first passed its “smoke test” — so named, he explains, because “your primary thought at that point is, ‘Is this thing gonna start smoking?’”
Watch the early prototype power up in the video below:
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