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Brief Published: 30 Oct 2013

Project Ara by Motorola


In an exciting step for the US phone manufacturer, Motorola has launched Project Ara, an open-source platform to create modular mobile phones. The plans from the Google-owned company come off the back of its successful Make with Moto university workshops, during which open-source modularity emerged as a common theme. 

Project Ara centres around a basic endoskeleton to which customisable modules can be attached, depending on the user’s requirements. For example, you can choose to have an extra display, a superior camera or additional storage.

The project will be run in collaboration with Design Academy Eindhoven graduate Dave Hakkens, whose modular smartphone concept Phonebloks has received unprecedented support from the online community. Motorola will tap into this online community for an open development process – unheard of in conventional mobile phone manufacturing. It envisages an open-platform that could support hardware from various manufacturers facilitated by an open relationship between user and developer. 

To gather feedback and ideas for Project Ara, Motorola is using online research platform Dscout. Volunteers, known as scouts, are sent questions via an app that allow them to offer suggestions and become part of the design process.

As discussed in our Industry Trend Design Democracy: Outsider, many designers advocate an open design process, but this is the first scheme devised by a global corporation on this scale. Read more about the rise of the consumer-inventor in our Industry Trend Thinking Digitally: Everyone’s an Engineer. For more about the benefits and applications of modular design, see our Industry Trend Design Democracy: Integrate

Further examples of design democracy benefitting micro-industries are featured in our Lift: Occupy Industry report, publishing this week.