Google has released version 0.2 Alpha of the Project Ara MDK. This is the set of data and tools developers can use to create modules for Google’s upcoming modular smartphone.

Later this year Google hopes to sell customers an endoskeleton for a Project Ara smartphone, allowing them to pick and choose modules for the processor, screen, battery, and other components they want.

The Project Ara MDK 0.2 includes updated specifications and better outlines how the system will work.

ara mdk_01

Google will be holding its second Ara Developers Conference on January 14th, and the new kit comes about a month ahead of that event.

Among other things, it includes details for the latest Project Ara prototype, which is currently referred to as the Spiral 2. It also introduces the “Greybus” communication protocol suite which is designed to let modules communicate with the endoskeleton (and one another).

MDK 0.2 also gives an initial explanation of the upcoming Ara Module Marketplace, which will allow module makers to sell their hardware to customers much the way app developers can currently sell their software through the Google Play Store.

Developers will be able to submit details about their hardware through the Ara Developer Console, while users of Ara phones will be able to use an Ara Configurator app to choose the hardware they’d like.

At the most basic level, this can let you customize your phone by choosing modules you’ll need most. Do you always worry your phone’s battery will die, but you never take pictures with your smartphone? No problem: opt for 2 battery modules and leave out the camera module.

But since most modules are hot swappable, you can also order components you don’t expect to use all the time… and just pop them into the phone’s frame when you need them. Done with your photo shoot? Take out the camera and slap in a battery.

ara mdk_05

Modules may also be available for hardware that’s not currently common in smartphones. Need a thermometer, infrared camera, or microscope for your phone? Project Ara could lead to a future where you don’t have to buy an expensive phone aimed at scientists or field workers… you could just buy a standard endoskeleton and outfit it with the modules you want.

Another new feature mentioned in the 0.2 MDK is an Ara Manager App which isn’t available yet, but which should be available in a future MDK.

The app will let users view details about all the modules attached to their device and offer tools for swapping modules.

via Phonebloks

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10 replies on “Google updates Project Ara modular smartphone MDK (module developers kit)”

  1. Cool . . . this could be very good for the remote point-of-care industry.

  2. Don’t just hope for the modules you want, ask for them. I want eink screens to make my own ereader, so I’m asking @EInk to support @ProjectAra and build the modules.

    Ara is more democratic than we’re used to, but that’s not just a buzzword, it means you have to make your voice heard. Twitter is a pretty easy way to quickly register your interest with a wide variety of companies. Let them know you want them making ara modules.

    1. SD Card blocks are being discussed in the Ara Dev Forum. I would expect someone to make one, though it sounds like the hardware is slightly too big to fit into a 1×1 block. Of course, the OS prevents you from installing apps to /sd on unrooted devices, so they’d have to be for media, mainly.

      1. I can’t speak for anyone else, but that’s all I really need it for.

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