Mix-and-match mobiles: Google unveils Project Ara dev conference

Seeks hardware hackers for Motorola's modular phone


Google says it is planning a series of three online developer conferences this year in support of Project Ara, the modular mobile phone design being developed by its Motorola Mobility division.

Announced last year, Ara is a unique concept that will allow users to build their own devices from a collection of snap-together parts. Customers who prefer a hard keyboard will be able add one, for example, while photo bugs will be able to upgrade their phones' cameras.

On Wednesday, the Chocolate Factory said that the first Ara Developers' Conference will be held from April 14 through 16.

Conference sessions will be conducted mainly online, including a live webstream and an interactive Q&A capability (we're thinking Google Hangouts), although a limited number of participants will be able to attend in person at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View.

The focus of this first gathering will be to introduce the Ara Module Development Kit (MDK), a platform specification and reference implementation that hardware tinkerers can use as the basis for building their own modules.

"The Developers' Conference will consist of a detailed walk-through of existing and planned features of the Ara platform, a briefing and community feedback sessions on the alpha MDK, and an announcement of a series of prize challenges for module developers," the Ara project homepage explains.

Ara modules interconnect using the UniPro protocol developed by the MIPI Alliance. For the alpha version of the MDK, Google says UniPro will be implemented in a field-programmable gate array (FPGA) running over a low-voltage differential signaling (LVDS) physical layer. That means initial module designs will be run at less than ideal speeds, but future versions of the MDK will ship with a UniPro application-specific integrated circuit (ASIC) running over the MIPI Alliance's M-PHY physical layer for better performance.

If that last bit sailed right over your head, then the Ara Developers' Conference probably isn't for you. You're welcome to tune into the live webfeed, but Google says it would like to reserve on-site attendance for actual, committed hardware hackers.

In fact, before the Chocolate Factory will even sell you a ticket to the in-person Mountain View event – at $100 apiece, or $25 for students – you'll need to submit a little essay on the conference's registration page explaining why you, of all people, deserve to attend. And if you do get the nod, which could happen anytime between now and the conference date, you'll have just 48 hours to cough up the cash.

Even if you don't make the cut, however, Google says the MDK specs should be available for download at no cost in time for the April event.

As for when the other two events in the planned series will take place, Google has yet to announce dates. ®

Similar topics

Broader topics


Other stories you might like

  • Google has more reasons why it doesn't like antitrust law that affects Google
    It'll ruin Gmail, claims web ads giant

    Google has a fresh list of reasons why it opposes tech antitrust legislation making its way through Congress but, like others who've expressed discontent, the ad giant's complaints leave out mention of portions of the proposed law that address said gripes.

    The law bill in question is S.2992, the Senate version of the American Innovation and Choice Online Act (AICOA), which is closer than ever to getting votes in the House and Senate, which could see it advanced to President Biden's desk.

    AICOA prohibits tech companies above a certain size from favoring their own products and services over their competitors. It applies to businesses considered "critical trading partners," meaning the company controls access to a platform through which business users reach their customers. Google, Apple, Amazon, and Meta in one way or another seemingly fall under the scope of this US legislation. 

    Continue reading
  • Makers of ad blockers and browser privacy extensions fear the end is near
    Overhaul of Chrome add-ons set for January, Google says it's for all our own good

    Special report Seven months from now, assuming all goes as planned, Google Chrome will drop support for its legacy extension platform, known as Manifest v2 (Mv2). This is significant if you use a browser extension to, for instance, filter out certain kinds of content and safeguard your privacy.

    Google's Chrome Web Store is supposed to stop accepting Mv2 extension submissions sometime this month. As of January 2023, Chrome will stop running extensions created using Mv2, with limited exceptions for enterprise versions of Chrome operating under corporate policy. And by June 2023, even enterprise versions of Chrome will prevent Mv2 extensions from running.

    The anticipated result will be fewer extensions and less innovation, according to several extension developers.

    Continue reading
  • I was fired for blowing the whistle on cult's status in Google unit, says contractor
    The internet giant, a doomsday religious sect, and a lawsuit in Silicon Valley

    A former Google video producer has sued the internet giant alleging he was unfairly fired for blowing the whistle on a religious sect that had all but taken over his business unit. 

    The lawsuit demands a jury trial and financial restitution for "religious discrimination, wrongful termination, retaliation and related causes of action." It alleges Peter Lubbers, director of the Google Developer Studio (GDS) film group in which 34-year-old plaintiff Kevin Lloyd worked, is not only a member of The Fellowship of Friends, the exec was influential in growing the studio into a team that, in essence, funneled money back to the fellowship.

    In his complaint [PDF], filed in a California Superior Court in Silicon Valley, Lloyd lays down a case that he was fired for expressing concerns over the fellowship's influence at Google, specifically in the GDS. When these concerns were reported to a manager, Lloyd was told to drop the issue or risk losing his job, it is claimed. 

    Continue reading
  • UK competition watchdog seeks to make mobile browsers, cloud gaming and payments more competitive
    Investigation could help end WebKit monoculture on iOS devices

    The United Kingdom's Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) on Friday said it intends to launch an investigation of Apple's and Google's market power with respect to mobile browsers and cloud gaming, and to take enforcement action against Google for its app store payment practices.

    "When it comes to how people use mobile phones, Apple and Google hold all the cards," said Andrea Coscelli, Chief Executive of the CMA, in a statement. "As good as many of their services and products are, their strong grip on mobile ecosystems allows them to shut out competitors, holding back the British tech sector and limiting choice."

    The decision to open a formal investigation follows the CMA's year-long study of the mobile ecosystem. The competition watchdog's findings have been published in a report that concludes Apple and Google have a duopoly that limits competition.

    Continue reading
  • Google offers $118m to settle gender discrimination lawsuit
    Don't even think about putting LaMDA on the compensation committee

    Google has promised to cough up $118 million to settle a years-long gender-discrimination class-action lawsuit that alleged the internet giant unfairly pays men more than women.

    The case, launched in 2017, was led by three women, Kelly Ellis, Holly Pease, and Kelli Wisuri, who filed a complaint alleging the search giant hires women in lower-paying positions compared to men despite them having the same qualifications. Female staff are also less likely to get promoted, it was claimed.

    Gender discrimination also exists within the same job tier, too, the complaint stated. Google was accused of paying women less than their male counterparts despite them doing the same work. The lawsuit was later upgraded to a class-action status when a fourth woman, Heidi Lamar, joined as a plaintiff. The class is said to cover more than 15,000 people.

    Continue reading
  • Google recasts Anthos with hitch to AWS Outposts
    If at first you don't succeed, change names and try again

    Google Cloud's Anthos on-prem platform is getting a new home under the search giant’s recently announced Google Distributed Cloud (GDC) portfolio, where it will live on as a software-based competitor to AWS Outposts and Microsoft Azure Stack.

    Introduced last fall, GDC enables customers to deploy managed servers and software in private datacenters and at communication service provider or on the edge.

    Its latest update sees Google reposition Anthos on-prem, introduced back in 2020, as the bring-your-own-server edition of GDC. Using the service, customers can extend Google Cloud-style management and services to applications running on-prem.

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2022