Google today posted a video showing off the first prototype from Project Ara, the company’s open hardware platform for creating highly modular smartphones. Developed by NK Labs in Boston, the device so far features five removable components: an LED module, a battery, the application processor, loud speakers, and a USB charge port.
Until now, all we’ve seen so far are industrial design models. As you can see above at the 2:25 minute mark, this one actually boots up and is running a custom version of Android.
In the video, one of the engineering firm’s seven employees says the team has been working on mechanical improvements to get the connectors to fit more reliably. In this prototype, dubbed Spiral 1, approximately 50 percent of the space on the module is taken up for modularity, meaning there isn’t much room to create particularly powerful parts.
Spiral 2, this prototype’s successor, is already in the works, with Toshiba building custom chips to minimize the footprint. “Most of the area should be available” for developers in Spiral 2, the NK Labs engineer promises in the clip.
The video’s timing is no coincidence: Google today announced its second Project Ara developer conference will take place in January 2015 across multiple cities worldwide. At the events, the company plans to demo the latest Ara prototype (that will be Spiral 2), highlight ongoing module development efforts from select developers, and “share early plans for a market pilot in 2015.”
It’s currently not clear how much access developers will get to Spiral 2. While the video says it will be “shown” to the audience, we’re not sure whether Google will be able to produce enough of them so that attendees can take them home.
If you want more Ara but can’t wait till next year, we recommend reading Wired’s A Day With Project Ara, which takes a closer look at what Google’s Advanced Technology and Projects division has been up to.