Google has arguably set the standard for tapping unknown people to create its new, unheard-of technologies. It challenges hackers by encouraging anyone to try their darnedest to find flaws in Google’s codes. Its developer conferences offer bounties to anyone who can create the most innovative, functional software. This year’s developer conference has proven no different, but with a hardware twist. The company’s much-publicized Project Ara — a modular smartphone that consists of different pieces that perform separate functionalities but combine to create one device — seeks talent from anyone capable of creating a working module for the future Project Ara phone that does something not possible with a current smartphone. The module developer challenge includes a $100,000 bounty for such a creation submitted in full-form functionality by September 1.
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The project is a long ways off from reaching the hands of consumers. Reports note that the prototype unveiled at Google’s conference this week was unable to properly load, and comes with very few functionalities as it is – not to mention its unattractive, boxy look. What is even more important about the project is its intent to create a smart device that includes open hardware — a concept meaning that the device decentralizes the creation of hardware by one entity, and instead makes the hardware customizable and changeable depending on a user’s need. Akin to the notion of open software — something Google has made its name for with its Android operating system — open hardware explores how to create a device made up of individual blocks that all perform specific functions and can be replaced separately and customized for power and processing.
Indeed, Google has said in the past that it hopes to make Project Ara do for hardware what Android has done for software. Paul Eremenko, head of Project Ara has written about the intent of the development:
The smartphone is one of the most empowering and intimate objects in our lives. Yet most of us have little say in how the device is made, what it does and how it looks. What if you could make thoughtful choices about exactly what your phone does, and use it as a creative canvas to tell your own story?
Google is also reportedly working on a new, high-speed 3D printer to create customized production modules for the phone, taking a stab at the whole notion of smart device production from the ground up. It looks as though Project Ara is intended to revolutionize not just consumer smartphone usage, but the supply chain of smartphone production as it stands.