Google announces Project Ara MDK version 0.10

Project Ara medium endo

Google will next week hold its first Project Ara Developer Conference. Just ahead of the event, the company has released the first release of the Project Ara MDK (Module Developers Kit). Currently at version 0.10, this is an early version but it will give developers an early look at how to build modules for the project. Google is also looking for feedback to ensure that the final MDK is “elegant, flexible, and complete.”

Project Ara is an ambitious project that will allow users to customize their smartphone using a variety of modules. Orginally announced by Motorola, the project will remain with Google when Lenovo’s Motorola acquisition closes. Google will provide the endoskeletons (or endos) upon which modules that deliver specific functions can be attached. The possible permutations will only be limited by the number of modules available and a few rules. While only Google will offer the endos, anyone will be able to develop modules.

Project Ara is a platform for creating modular smartphones. Users will be able to populate an endoskeleton, the structural frame and network backbone of the device, and populate it with modules, the building blocks that make up the vast majority of the phone’s functionality and features. Since modules are interchangeable, a user has the freedom to design exactly the phone they want and continue to customize the phone over time by replacing modules. Ara’s success is predicated on a rich, vibrant, and diverse ecosystem of modules from a myriad of developers. Users would be able to select modules from an online marketplace using a confgurator that facilitates user choice and curates the confguration process to ensure that the selection of modules provides the expected system-level functionality.

While three endo sizes are planned, Google is focusing on the Mini and Medium ones for now with the Large slated for a future release. The Mini will support a 2 by 5 grid on the back while the medium (pictured above) will offer a 3 by 6 one. The Large is currently set for a 4 by 7 grid but that could still change. A set of ribs on each will dictate where modules can slide. The largest rear modules will take up a 2 by 2 slot.

Medium Project Ara endo with modules

As far as modules go, the MDK provides a wealth of information ranging from dimensions to more technical specifications covering connectors, general construction and power specifications. Along with the typical modules like batteries, displays and Wi-Fi, it also shows off a pulse oximeter module and a thermal imager module.

Google now expects to have a final Project Ara MDK ready by the end of the year. Between now and then, we can expect to see a number of alpha and beta MDK releases as it gets refined and more features are added.

The first Project Ara smartphone is expected to launch in Q1 2015. A barebones model could sell for as low as US$50 but would offer very limited functionality until additional modules are added.

Source : Project Ara