Google exploring modular technology


It is suggested that Google is interested in a new technology for displays where the screen consists of several parts. These parts can be clicked together while staying seamless.

These building blocks can be clicked together like Lego to form screens of several sizes. The clickable screen will be developed by a team led by Mary Lou Jepsen, who is also involved with the One Laptop Per Child-project and worked previously as professor at the technology insititue MIT. It is rumoured that Jepsen is leading a division in the secret Google-X lab.

A big innovation of the modular technology will be to make display modules “seamless” so that people looking at a giant screen wouldn’t see the borders between the modules. The project remains at an early stage and has been kept secret, even within Google, partly because the technical challenges are as large as the planned screens

Google is already working on a modular technology named Project Ara, a smartphone concept. It has been announced that the several parts of the new modular phone will be hot-swappable. This means that the several parts can be changed without switching off the smartphone. Only the removal of the CPU or screen part requires the system to switch off. This will give the consumer many personalized options. Interested in a high-end camera? Instead of opting for basic 8-megapixel module you could grab a hefty 13-megapixel sensor with optical stabilization, or maybe something better than that. Not interested in camera’s? Just don’t buy a camera module then. The consumer is able to design a phone specifically for its own needs.

Google already announced Project Ara some time ago, but the eventual product has not been released. The company expects to show a prototype at the developers conference in December. The modular phone is expected to be released one year later. It is however unclear if the modular screen will also be used for Project Ara. It is more likely that Google will use the new technology for bigger screens, like televisions.

Time reports that Ara could arrive as a buyable product as early as the beginning of 2015 and for a price as low as $50. Meanwhile, Google has dropped hints that it plans the Ara to be available for as many as 6 billion people. But again, you spend as much or as little as you want to get the phone you want. Ara will come in three size variants at first; “mini, medium and jumbo”, which will cover all currently popular sizes from compact to phablet. While nothing specific has been said, in theory each size variant could offer a smaller or greater number of module slots.

Needless to say, the Ara and the big modular screen are shaping up to be a real game-changers. In the future, your screen could be built from screens and your phone can be composed of a battery lasting a week and a basic camera, whatever you like. Any ideas or comments on this (disruptive) technology?

Resources

Know Your Mobile, (2014). Google Project Ara: The Future Of Smartphones Is Modular. [online] Available at: http://www.knowyourmobile.com/google/project-ara/21923/google-project-ara-future-smartphones-modular [Accessed 13 Oct. 2014].

Mashable, (2014). Google X Lab Working on Lego-Style Modular Screens, Report Says. [online] Available at: http://mashable.com/2014/10/06/google-x-modular-screens/ [Accessed 13 Oct. 2014].

McCracken, H. (2014). Project Ara: Inside Google’s Bold Gambit to Make Smartphones Modular. [online] TIME.com. Available at: http://time.com/10115/google-project-ara-modular-smartphone/ [Accessed 13 Oct. 2014].

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