updated 10:41 am EDT, Fri April 4, 2014
Electro-permanent magnets for Project Ara demonstrated
Google has revealed more about its Project Ara modular smartphone ahead of its first Ara Developers Conference on April 15th. A video showing the team behind the project has been posted to YouTube by PhoneBloks, demonstrating how the smartphone stays together, as well as how individual modules could have various external textures and styles.
Three endoskeletons were shown in the video as renders, reports Engadget, with each varying in cost and capacity, as well as size. The smallest, thought to sell for around $50 with basic components, will be able to hold at least six modules, with the mid-sized version holding eight, and the largest and possibly phablet-sized model will hold at least nine.
The modules, which will hold processors, storage, camera sensors, and other parts, will be held in place inside the endoskeleton by an electro-permanent magnet. An electrical current will be used to change the magnetic properties of a permanent magnet, allowing a module to remain firmly attached to the endoskeleton without any power required after fixing, but can be released by a controlling app triggering more current.
The deal made with 3D Systems is allowing Google to experiment with creating enclosures of varying shapes and sizes, allowing for heavily customized modules. Textured casings are shown, alongside those with images and sculptured artwork protruding from the surface. An Ara Configurator app is also demonstrated, giving users a catalog of modules usable on the device, suggesting various configurations and showing what the phone could look like in specific combinations.
Google is still far from shipping the Ara devices. The first units are expected to come off the production line sometime in early 2015.