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Project Ara is Alive, Igor!

Frankenstein-Stills-classic-movies-19760768-1874-1470After years of waiting, Google’s long-delayed modular smartphone program will finally be shipping to developers this fall – only it won’t be quite the ambitious and bold design we had been expecting.

Liliputing, Ars Technica, and other sites are reporting that Google will be shipping the next round of Project Ara developer kits to developers this fall. This promise was made at Google’s  I/O conference on Friday, and it was accompanied by a much less grandiose vision for a modular smartphone.

Rather than assembling every part of a smartphone from removable components, the core of the phone will be integrated into the phone. From Ars:

The Ara body contains a fixed CPU, GPU, antennas, sensors, battery, and display. The Ara page says this "frees up more room for hardware in each module," but it also removes Ara’s promise of upgradability. The modules will now be for the camera and speakers, along with accessories to the base smartphone like a fingerprint reader or an extra display.

The new model has a 5.3″ display and room for 6 modules.  The screen, CPU, storage, antennas, and battery are not removable, but other components like the camera are removable.

project ara

In fact, one of the tricks shown off at the demo today was a voice command which made the camera module fly off when a Google rep said “OK Google, eject the camera”. (I for one love that feature; I am looking forward to doing it to other people’s phones.)

Otherwise you’ll have to use a software menu to tell the phone to eject a module; it’s not going to be quite as hot-swappable or plug-and-play as Google had previously promised.

So basically, the initial Project Ara promises were overly ambitious. Well, at least it still looks pretty nifty:

Google Postpones Project Ara Pilot

Google has ruined my fall vacation plans.

News is breaking today that Google’s modular smartphone might not be hitting the market this year as promised. The Project Ara pilot test, which was set to run time time this year on the island of Puerto Rico, has been scrapped. The Project Ara team has taken to Twitter and dropped cryptic hints about Google’s modular smartphone.


They have not said much, and in fact they have said so little that I’m not sure that

  1. More information is coming soon – next week, hopefully.
  2. The marketing pilot may or may not take place in Puerto Rico, as originally planned.
  3. Project Ara will eventually be available in Puerto Rico… at some point … maybe.

As I said, the hints were vague to the point of being unintelligible (I’ve seen omens that were more specific).

We’ll know more next week.


Do you suppose this delay is related to the other Google news this week?

On Monday Google announced that it was reorganizing itself under a new parent company, Alphabet. Among the many goals, the move was intended to free the many parts of Google, including the hardware developers, from being owned by a search engine. (Or at least that is how it is seen from the outside.)

Today’s delay could simply be a coincidence, but there’s also a good chance that the pilot was put off so that Google could focus on the internal chaos caused by the reorganization.

Again, we’ll know more next week.


Fonkraft Challenges Project Ara With a $99 Modular Smartphone

Google may have recruited much of the mobile device industry to support Project Ara, but that hasn’t stopped independent efforts to develop modular smartphones.

Late last year a Finnish phone maker announced the Puzzlephone, and now another modular smartphone project launched on Indiegogo.

Pitched as the world’s first crowd-sourced modular smartphone, Fonkraft is a 5″ Android smartphone with a modular screen, CPU, battery, etc. It’s built around a frame which will let owners pull individual components and replace them with upgrades, or re-purpose their phones for alternate uses.

The Fonkraft is now up for pre-order on Indiegogo. For $99 you can get budget model powered by a dual-core 1.3Ghz CPU with 1GB RAM, 8GB internal storage, and a dual-core GPU.

That’s not a bad smartphone for the price, and if you want a more powerful unit you can spring for the Fonkraft Resolution or the Fonkraft HiFi. Both models run have a higher resolution screen (1920 x 1080) and run Android on a quad-core 2.5GHz CPU with 2GB RAM, 64GB storage, and a quad-core GPU.

The HiFi’s design features a high quality speaker unit, while the Resolution has a 20MP camera. They cost $199 each, and according to the Indiegogo listing, that is about half off the $399 retail price.

And for those who can’t decide on what features they want, there is the Fonkraft Element.  This unit comes with all of the components found on either the Resolution or the Hifi, giving you the option of assembling your smartphone just the way you want it.


Fonkraft went up on Indiegogo yesterday, and so far the campaign has raised about $700. Assuming the campaign reaches its goal of $50,000, Fonkraft plans to produce, test, and ship its modular smartphones by September 2015. Edit: they were going to get the money either way.

I think that is a tad ambitious, don’t you?

Project Ara has been under development for over a year and a half and it has a lot of smart people working on it, but it still has no firm launch date.

And Fonkraft thinks they can beat Google to market?

It is entirely possible that a small and focused tech company can best the committee which Google has assembled, but I would bet the other way.

Update: And I was right. Indiegogo pulled the campaign.

So what do you think of Fonkraft? Are you going to back the campaign?

Intersoft’s Do-Ra Module Turns a Project Ara Smartphone into a Geiger Counter

We still don’t know for sure when Google’s Project Ara will make its way to store shelves, but when it does arrive it will have some nifty options. In addition to a cornucopia of CPU, screen, camera, and other options, Project Ara owners will be able to add a radiation sensor.

The Russian company Intersoft unveiled a prototype dosimeter-radiometer sensor at the second Ara developers conference (in January, but it only crossed my desk today). The DO-RA.Modul takes Intersoft’s existing sensor tech and shrinks it down to about the size of a postage stamp:


Intersoft’s been working on the module since at least last July. They’ve also developed an Android app to control the sensor, and they’re hoping to have both available at the end of the year.

And given that the new module is only about a third the size of Intersoft’s existing products, I’d say that they’re going to pull it off. The current dosimeter-radiometer sensor is designed to plug into a smartphone’s headphone jack (iPhone, for example) and feed data to an app. It launched last summer with a price around $150.


Speaking of nifty modules for Project Ara, Lapka is also working on a bevy of sensors ranging from CO2 to an EKG to a glucometer.

As you may know, this company has its own modular sensor platform, and it’s using its past experience and know-how to turn a Project Ara smartphone into an honest-to-goodness tricorder:

lapka project ara

I can’t find any way to tell whether those are functional models, and not just a concept mock up, but it’s nifty nonetheless.

I learned of Lapka’s plans a few weeks ago, and while I can’t wait to see them come to market I do have to wonder about the practicality. Sure, the above concept is nifty, but did you notice that the CPU and battery modules are missing?

I think that could make it a little hard to use all those sensors, don’t you?


Yezz Shows Off SmartCover, LED Flashlight, Gamepad for Project Ara

Google launched its modular smartphone project in order to speed up device innovation and make it possible for new features to reach the market in a matter of months and not years.

If the modules which Yezz is showing off at Mobile World Congress are any indication, Google’s plans are about to be wildly successful.


Yezz is in Barcelona this week to show off a number of module ideas. All we have at this time are mockups, but some of the ideas have this jaded blogger sitting up and paying attention.

In addition to expected modules like camera, audio, battery, screen, etc, Yezz is letting MWC attendees play with a dummy game controller module developed for Project Ara. They also have an LED flashlight module, and a smartcover which slots into one of the module slots on the rear and adds a solar panel. Not only will you be able to wake up your Ara simply by opening the cover, you will also be able to recharge it simply by leaving it in bright sunlight.

Or at least that is what we’re hoping. The first  Project Ara smartphones will be sold during a pilot test in Puerto Rico in the second half of 2015. Yezz is hoping that its Project Ara smartphone will cost around $200. As I recall, Google wants to have a model selling for $99.

Update: Yezz informs me that the launch date for Project Ara has not been set, and that reports that the pilot will happen this year are incorrect.



Under the Hood of Project Ara (videos)

Much has been written about Google’s Project Ara, but I don’t know that the media coverage has managed to convey just how complex of an undertaking it is, or just how many tech companies are involved.project ara

Earlier today Charbax posted a couple videos in which he interviews a couple of people who are involved with Project Ara. A couple are with Linaro, a non-profit that develops open-source tools for ARM chips, while the other is with the Linux Foundation.

More than just being a new smartphone which you can swap out modules, Project Ara is pushing existing technologies in new directions, forcing engineers to come up with new solutions to problems created by Project Ara overturning the apple cart.

Charbax shot the interviews at the recent Linaro Connect conference in Hong Kong. This tech conference brings together engineers from companies spanning multiple industries.

This second video features Greg Kroah-Hartman of Linux Foundation and Greg Herring of Linaro. Each discusses the tech being developed for Project Ara.

Herring shows off the development board which the module developers will be using to design the components which I hope to one day use in an Ara-style smartphone.

Whether that will happen is another matter; at this point it’s still not clear that this whole crazy idea  will work in practical terms. As we saw with Google Glass, sometimes you don’t realize how ridiculous an idea is until you get it into the hands of consumers.

In the case of Project Ara, we’ll have to wait for the pilot test in Puerto Rico later this year.

Toshiba Reveals 5MP Camera Module for Project Ara

Google is planning to ship its project Ara modular smartphones in Puerto Rico later this year, and now it looks like Toshiba is going to have a camera module ready for those lucky consumers.

Toshiba is working on two camera modules for Project Ara, and they recently posted a video which shows that they’ve successfully built a 5MP camera module for Google smartphone. (No word yet on the 13MP module.)

project ara camera

The module packs a decent-quality 5MP camera sensor into a space the size of a thumb drive. There’s no flash, unfortunately, but that was probably left out in order to remove one more complication.

Coincidentally, Toshiba has started a special website for its Project Ara contributions where they’ve revealed that they’re working on a number of modules, including a display, Wifi, a front-facing camera+media module, TransferJet (an NFC alternative), and more.

We don’t know yet just how  many of the modules will be ready in time for the launch later this year, but we do know that Toshiba has ambitious goals for Project Ara.

While Google sees this as a possible $50  smartphone, Toshiba is looking at the many opportunities created when you can plug in and remove modules from a smartphone at will.

Image Sensor World

Project Ara Smartphone to Get Premium Modules for 13MP Toshiba Camera, Sennheiser Audio, Innolux Displays

I have my doubts that consumers will want to update and replace the CPU on a modular smartphone, but if the following screen and audio components are released then we’ll definitely see some upgrades going on.

Over the past couple weeks the folks at Phonebloks have been blogging about some of the 3rd-party developers who are working on modules for the Project Ara smartphone. While I’m not usually one to buy smartphones, if these modules do come to market then I will be taking a vacation in Puerto Rico this year – right around the time the Project Ara pilot kicks off.

To start, Toshiba is working on several camera modules. In addition to a 2MP front-facing camera, they have a 13MP rear camera (with a flash) in the works as well as a module with dual 5MP cameras. The modules will support an new image capture technology up to 900 fps , and up to 240 fps with a 1080i / 13 Mp resolution.


Toshiba is also working on other modules, including Wifi, display, and activity measuring modules, and plans to have the first modules available in the beginning of next year. The company is also developing references design for its products.

While a camera is great, it’s not much without a screen so you can see what you are recording, and that’s where Innolux comes in.

This display maker showed off a prototype display module at the Project Ara conference a couple weeks ago. It’s based on a 4.5″ panel with a resolution of 326 ppi, and the module has a narrow border panel (only 1 mm), Gorilla 3 cover-glass (to avoid scratches) and a microphone.


The company plans to put it into mass production in the next 9 months, and Innolux product manager Fred Van Rens also hinted that Innolux could develop 3D display and E-ink screen modules.

I plan to be keeping my fingers crossed in the hopes that the E-ink modules do happen, but even if Project Ara doesn’t morph into an ereader it still has the makings of a decent media player.

Sennheiser has revealed that they’re working on two audio modules. The first is called Amphion, and it’s basically a premium sound card shrunk down to the size of a couple of postage stamps. It includes a low-noise audio jack, a low-latency digital signal processor, and a 150 milliwatt class G headphone amp.


That’s better audio than I have in most of my tablets, and what’s even better is that the audio jack is expected to serve as both a mike and headphone jack, enabling users to record high quality audio and not just play it.

The other module is called Proteus, and as you can see in the image below it includes two audio jacks. This will let you share your music with a friend, but it is also intended to let you plug in a pair of microphones for even better sound.


Project Ara has been under development for a couple years now, and it is slowly making its way to hitting store shelves. Google announced a couple weeks back that the first market pilot will be held in Puerto Rico later this year.

The last I heard Google is planning to offer 3 different base units, enabling consumers to choose between a phablet or a more pocketable smartphone. The largest is said to be about the size of a Galaxy Note 3, while the smaller Project Ara base units  will be about the size of a 5″ phablet and one of the early iPhones.

The platform is designed so users can switch out modules to add new features. Don’t like the sound quality? That’s fixable. Want a faster CPU? Done. Want more battery life? Add a better one. Need a better camera? Just swap out your existing one.


Want to Assemble Your Own Smartphone? Google Shows Off Project Ara Modular Phone Prototype

3[1]The idea of assembling a DIY mobile device has long since fallen out of the mainstream, but if Project Ara is successful then that could change.

For the past couple years Google has been working on, well, they’ve been working on many hardware projects, but the one that has me waiting with bated breath is Project Ara.

This project has a goal which is as simple in concept as it is complex in practice; Google is trying to develop a platform for a modular smartphone which would enable owners to upgrade their existing phone piecemeal rather than junking it simply because the screen is broken.

In theory Project Ara will enable consumers to buy a base unit as well as components which met their needs: camera, screen, battery, wireless chip, etc. When all the parts arrive the consumer will be able to plug the parts into the base unit and have a working phone.

The following gallery should help explain it better.

Project Ara is still in the prototype stage, and it’s scheduled to hit the market early next year. Right now the only units floating around are in the hands of the original project team as well as a select handful of outside developers who (hopefully) are creating modules which you can buy.

You can see the latest prototype in the video below.

Google is planning to offer 3 different base units, enabling fans to choose between a phablet or a more pocketable smartphone. The largest is said to be about the size of a Galaxy Note 3. (Just to give you an idea of the size, that phone sports a 5.7″ screen.) The smaller Project Ara base units  will be about the size of a 5″ phablet and one of the early iPhones.

The platform is designed so users can hot swap modules without shutting down or rebooting the phone.  I’m not sure how well that will work in practice but the idea has me interested. Want more battery life? Add a better one. Need a better camera? Just swap out your existing one. Don’t like the sound quality? I’m sure you’ll find a Chinese OEM with a compatible module.

I don’t know of any plans to make a tablet sized unit, which is a shame. The larger area would enable you to add far more modules.

But even with the size limitations, I am keeping a close eye on Project Ara. While I don’t think that this is an explicit part of the plan, I am expecting one Chinese OEM or another to create a module with an epaper screen. I am going to have me some fun assembling my own Android ereader.


XO Infinity Modular Laptop Goes Up For Pre-Order Minus Its Modular Design

When I broke the news on the XO Infinity laptop from One Education (OLPC Australia) last spring, it featured a modular design where you could replace the CPU, battery, screen, storage, etc.

You could have thought of the design we saw last year as the Project Ara for educational laptops, but you wouldn’t get that impression from the Infinity laptop  which just went up for pre-order.

One Education is sending out emails this morning with the news that you can pre-order an Infinity laptop, only instead of the modular design teased last year, this laptop is a rather ordinary looking two-in-one design with a green shell.

infinity laptop

The Infinity is now a 10″ laptop which runs Windows 10 on a quad-core 1.9GHz Atom CPU with 2GB RAM and 64GB internal storage.

Gone are the options for Android and Sugar OS. The laptop has also lost all of its modules, and replaced the promise of upgradability with the usual mix of ports, card slots, and a couple cameras (2MP and 5MP).

The Infinity costs $230, and is expected to ship in August.


If you’re wondering what the bleep happened to the original design, the problem was that this project never had the engineering team it needed and it never had broad support from the industry.

As you may recall, Project Ara had the financial backing of Google and support from industry standards groups as well as Intel, Toshiba, Qualcomm, Rockchip, Nvidia, Marvell, Sennheiser (audio), Innolux (screens), and a bunch of smaller companies including smartphone makers.

In comparison, the Infinity laptop did not even have the support of Google or Intel, two tech giants which have an immediate and direct interest in edtech as well as the engineering teams to make this idea a reality.

I’m sure One Education had great engineers, but this was a ridiculously complex project which required the backing of numerous tech experts in a variety of fields. That lack of support is why this project has (at best) stalled at an incomplete state and why One Education instead launched a substitute product.

There’s no word on when or if One Education will ever launch the promised modular laptop. I have queried them, and I will update this post with their response.

Edit: I have been told that the idea "has been parked for now. The market and manufacturing industries to support it aren’t just there yet!"

Like a Smart Symbiote, Google Launches a 170 Million Euro Fund for Online News Innovation

5202381656_444b6b1bc4_bThe best symbiotes keep the host organism healthy. On a similar note, Google is taking steps today to make sure that the supply of content for its search engine doesn’t dry up.

Or at least that’s one way to see it; I have a different opinion at the end of this post.

Google has announced today that it is launching an Innovation Fund for its Digital News Initiative. Originally announced in April, the DNI is Google’s latest effort to help online news publishers to find new ways to deliver high-quality journalism to the public.

From Google:

In April, we launched the Digital News Initiative, a partnership with eleven European news organisations to support high quality journalism through technology and innovation. The initiative is open to anyone involved in Europe’s digital news industry, large or small, established or newcomer, and since launch, more than 120 organisations have signed up to participate. Today, we’re excited to open up the DNI Innovation Fund for applications, and we hope that many more people will get involved.

The ambition and intent of the Fund is bold: to spark new thinking, which could come from anywhere in the news ecosystem, to give news organisations – of all sizes – the space to try some new things. We’ve set aside up to €150 million for that purpose, which we’ll make available in the form of no-strings-attached awards over the next three years.

DNI-mapSpeaking of innovation funds, this isn’t the first time Google has helped out online news publisher. In 2011 and 2013 Google launched efforts which focused on Belgian and French publishers (and there could be others).

It’s not clear how the goals of the earlier initiatives differed from the DNI Innovation Fund, but I can tell you that the motivations may have been different; both of the previous initiatives were launched in response to hostile action on the part of the news industry (a lawsuit in Belgium, and the threat of legislation in France).

Also, neither of the earlier projects were on this scale; the 2013 Digital Publishing Initiative, for example, set Google back 60 million euros. It’s not clear whether that initiative was successful, and Google hasn’t said how many projects were funded.

But Google has told us that the DNI Innovation Fund will focus on three funding levels:

  • Prototype projects: open to organisations – and to individuals – that meet the eligibility criteria, and require up to €50k of funding. These projects should be very early stage, with ideas yet to be designed and assumptions yet to be tested. We will fast-track such projects and will fund 100% of the total cost.
  • Medium projects: open to organisations that meet the eligibility criteria and require up to €300k of funding. We will accept funding requests up to 70% of the total cost of the project.
  • Large projects: open to organisations that meet the eligibility criteria and require more than €300k of funding. We will accept funding requests up to 70% of the total cost of the project. Funding is capped at €1 million.

As I have documented on this blog, Google has long had a contentious relationship with the news industry. That history has lead some to conclude that Google is now taking a more conciliatory approach. With revenues exceeding $45 billion a year, this is a very small price for Google to pay for an olive branch, but here’s the thing:

I don’t think this is an olive branch. I also don’t think this is Google helping a symbiotic partner.

Instead, this is just Google doing what Google does: cutting edge research.

Google has a history being the object of hate for news publishers, but they also have a history of suddenly developing a new interest in some tech field, and then investing a lot of R&D.  Past examples include Google Fiber, Project Ara, Google Glass, Android Wear, and Google Books.

And now Google has developed an interest in funding innovations in news publishing, and they’ve put together a broad coalition of partners – just like they did with Project Ara.

So while the earlier initiatives may have been an olive branch or peace offering, the DNI Innovation Fund is more likely simply Google being Google.

image by Bill Ward’s Brickpile

XO Infinity Modular Laptop Goes Up for Pre-order

xo infinityOne Education is an Australian non-profit and OLPC partner that wants to take up where OLPC left off by developing a modular and affordable educational computer for students.

Earlier this year One Education announced  a modular laptop called the Infinity, and promised that the first prototypes would ship next spring. This week the organization started taking reservations from folks interested in buying an Infinity when it is available.

The first thousand optimists to reserve an Infinity will be given the opportunity to buy one for $249 to $299 when it’s ready some time next year.

infinity xo

The XO Infinity is designed to be the ultimate modular laptop where every component from the keyboard dock to the camera, CPU, and even the screen is a module that can be swapped out at will.

The core of the design is a tablet unit with an 8.9″ screen. It packs in a camera module with 2MP and 5MP cameras, a battery, and a CPU module with a quad-core 1.5GHz CPU, 2GB RAM and 24GB storage.

That’s a slightly different design from the original concept revealed 6 months ago; that earlier design also had a connectivity module (Wifi, Bluetooth, etc). and One Education also says that the new design is about 3mm thinner. They’ve also reduced both the height and width by about 1cm.

One common problem shared by modular gadget projects is how a user might go about building their own module. The much-delayed Project Ara has basically made that option impossible, but it will be relatively easy for a hardware hacker to build a custom  module for the XO Infinity.

One Education has adopted USB-C as the standard connector for all the modules. That means that even if the official project falls through, a hacker would be able to build their own module by combining a module shell and a USB connector board with a Chrombit or Raspberry Pi. They could even build their own sensor module, or rebuild the battery.

You could conceivably use a commercially available USB-C accessory with the XO Infinity. There might be an issue with drivers, but the XO Infinity does run Android (Linux and Windows firmwares are in the works) so that won’t be an insurmountable issue.

And that’s a good thing, because the official XO Infinity project isn’t drawing a lot of support. That reservation list was first announced on 2 August, and it is still open as I write this post.

Let’s hope that One Education has institutional buyers lined up, because if they’re relying on single unit sales then this project won’t get much further than the core design and a set of schematics that you can have 3d-printed.

One Education doesn’t expect to ship the XO Infinity until next year, and they don’t have a working unit yet. but they did post a series of photos on their Facebook page which shows what the latest design looks like.

One Education via Liliputing

PuzzlePhone Modular Smartphone Gains Spanish Modular Tech

Google’s Project Ara is the best known modular smartphone effort, but those who want a simpler concept would do well to look up the PuzzlePhone.

A Finnish company by the name of Circular Devices is working on a simple modular smartphone concept which will enable owners to combine a CPU module, battery module, and a screen into a smartphone.

puzzlephoneLike the Project Ara, the Puzzlephone can be upgraded piecemeal, and Circular Devices hopes to offer multiple screen size options.

The Puzzlephone crossed my desk this week with the news that it would be adopting ImasD’s ARM (Advanced Removable Modules) tech for its CPU module.

ImasD is a Spanish company working on a modular tablet, the Click-Arm One. Just announced this week, the Click-Arm One will feature a 10″ screen, a CPU module based on a Samsung Exynos 4412 CPU with 2GB RAM, other modular electronics including a 16GB Flash storage module, and up to 4 miniPCIe card slots.

The Click-Arm One is a much more complicated concept, so I don’t think that it will share many modules in common with the Puzzlephone, ImasD and Circular Devices have radically different approaches to the modular electronics; one is going for as minimalist approach while the other is going for an excess.


Frankly, I’m surprised that they will even be able to share the CPU module.

Circular Devices last got attention in January when they proposed that users could recycle their old PuzzlePhone CPU modules as cores in modular supercomputers. Given that there is no actual PuzzlePhone prototype, that plan is still literally on the drawing board.

In addition to ImasD,  Circular Devices also announced several other branding and tech partners, such as Grant4Com, AT&SFraunhofer IZM andOgilvyOne Barcelona. These partnerships, according to Circular Devices CEO Alejandro Santacreu, have the company on track to bring the PuzzlePhone to market later this year.

And that’s going to make 2015 a very interesting year.

Between Project Ara, Sole NotebookXO Infinity, the Click-Arm One, and now the PuzzlePhone, 2015 is looking to be the year of modular gadgetry.

If even half these gadgets ship then I could well go bankrupt trying to keep up. What fun.

Liliputing,  The Next Web

Click-ARM One Modular Tablet Up for Pre-Order for 289 Euros, Ships in June

A Spanish company by the name of ImasD is working to solve one of my complaints against Project Ara: the size.

Earlier this week imasD unveiled the Click-ARM One, a modular tablet with removable modules for the CPU, storage, connectivity, battery, and more.

click-one arm tablet

Due to ship later this year, the Click-ARM One is still more of a prototype than a complete system with multiple alternative components.

The first production run is just now going up for pre-order. It’s going to be based on a 10″ Samsung screen and run your choice of Ubuntu, Tizen, or Android on an Exynos 4412 CPU with 2GB RAM. The Click-ARM One will also have a 16GB storage module as well as other modules. (I would assume there is a battery and Wifi module, but they’re not mentioned specifically.)

The backbone of this system is a board which combines both ImasD’s proprietary ARM (Advanced Removable Modules) tech as well as slots for mini-PCIe boards:


The ARM will go in the white squares labeled modules, while the mini-PCIe boards will go in the cutouts to the left and right. And yes, it does look like they’ll have slots for up to 4 mini-PCIe cards.

The Click-Arm One is up for pre-order now. The price plus shipping is 289 euros, and shipping to the US is not an option (I tried).

All in all this looks like a nifty idea, and I’m thrilled to see the multiple Samsung connections. It’s not just that I assume Samsung will pilfer any of the ideas which prove useful, but also that imasD had to have at least some Samsung assistance in designing this tablet. That gives it a better chance of actually shipping, IMO.

But I’m not so sure about iMasD’s other partner.

This tablet came across my desk in connection to the PuzzlePhone, a modular smartphone being by the Finnish Circular Devices. The PuzzlePhone is a much simpler alternative to Project Ara which combines a minimum of modules into a smartphone:



The PuzzlePhone will be using ARM tech for its CPU module.

The Next Web, Computer Hoy, Liliputing

This Israeli Startup Wants to Turn Your Smartphone’s Camera into a Tricorder

Google’s Project Ara offers the promise that you might be able to add just about any feature to your smartphone which a module maker can think up and if Unispectral’s camera tech lives up to the claims that could include the next best thing to a tricorder.


This Israeli startup is working on a new camera lens which the WSJ says will radically improve performance of smartphone cameras. According to its pitch sheet, Unispectral’s camera will feature superior low light performance, a higher frame rate, better noise handling, improved dynamic range, and most importantly, hyperspectral imaging capabilities.

unispectralBefore you head over to Wikipedia to look up that last item, hyperspectral imaging is a branch of spectroscopy and of photography where you use a special camera sensor to collect more than just visual data (information from across the electromagnetic spectrum). It’s a real thing, and you can buy a hyperspectral camera – and now Unispectral wants to shoehorn the tech into a smartphone’s camera.

If it works then you’ll be able to point your smartphone at an object and determine its chemical composition, as shown in this video:

That’s a neat idea, but I honestly don’t think that the tech can be engineered into such a small size.

But even if it is, this would still come with a catch. Unispectral doesn’t believe that they can fit the analytical software into the smartphone; it would have to run remotely on a server. And that’s a problem:

Once the camera has acquired the image, the data is sent to a third party to process and analyze the material compounds and the amount of each component within the image. The third-party analyzer then sends the information back to the smartphone.

The new components of the lens and software came out of research at Tel Aviv University’s engineering faculty.

The imaging works in both live video and still photography.

Unispectral hasn’t started working with a third-party analyzer yet, but is in talks with major smartphone makers, automotive companies, and security organizations. It still needs to find a company or organization that can analyze the data from its cameras’ images. This back-end analyzer will need to have a database of hyperspectral signatures.

That’s a big if, but it’s not insurmountable.

Unispectral is hoping to adapt its tech to work with both smartphones and with wearables. If the idea pans out then we could be looking at new and cheaper medical and health sensors, as well as nifty new party tricks.