To push along Project Ara, Google has started the Developer Prize Challenge to incite developers to create modules for the launch of the new smartphone. Many modules are planned, yet Google hopes to attract new ideas that will help shape Project Ara as the only phone a user may need to buy.
Project Ara is looking more and more like the phone of the future. Cellular phones are becoming more expensive as carriers are no longer offering contract discounts and are instead focusing on credit and other ways to get customers to pay the full price for the latest phones.
Project Ara looks to change all of that with the introduction of modular cell phones. Instead of buying an expensive phone that will become replaced in a year or two, modular cell phones will be able to swap out independent modules to upgrade or replace older parts. The phone will have a base skeleton with available slots for the modules. Modules come in different sizes and the phone connectors work on a grid. The available slots depend on the modules connected. If available slots become an issue, users will be able to carry around extra modules and switch them out when needed.
Early reports have stated that Project Ara modules are going to include the basics of any latest phone on the market. Upgradeable cameras, batteries, processor, RAM, and storage will all arrive as a replaceable modules. Those basics will be the focus of what comes bundled with the phone at release. Google is looking to expand beyond what every buyer thinks are the basics of cell phones.
Google has started a Project Ara Developer Prize Challenge to help encourage independent developers to create new modules and accompanying software. The challenge will award developers that create a module which is innovative, yet something that someone will use on a daily basis. One winner will receive $100,000 and two follow-up winners will receive a trip to the next Google developer event.
Developers that wish to participate must submit a five-minute team introduction video by Sept. 1, 2014. Developers are expected to use the current Module Development Kit which is currently in version MDK 0.11 and still in alpha stage. Developers are already using the software to think up and develop new software and modular prototypes. To aid developers that may have questions, Google has set up a developer forum for discussion and help. In early June, Google set up the DevForum and it already has many developers writing question and exchanging ideas.
One idea that is being discussed on the DevForum is using the modules to form an extended gamepad to use for playing video games on the phone. A link on the forum led to a blog post where someone has done a mockup of a clamshell Project Ara phone that looks similar to a Nintendo 3DS. Other developers also discussed the ability to extend slots, such as the screen, to accommodate a slide-out gamepad similar to the Sony Xperia Play.
The Prize Challenge ends on September 30, and the working modules will be evaluated by a team of judges. The end of the challenge puts the new modules in line for the release of Project Ara at the beginning of 2015. Users looking forward to getting their hands on the new Project Ara have the results of the challenge to see what the phone will bring to the phone market.
As Google starts the Project Ara Developer Prize Challenge, many developers are already thinking up new ways to use the module setup. Although developers do not have to participate in the challenge, the prize money is incentive enough to get ideas flowing.
By Raul Hernandez