Facebook is secretly reviving Google's modular Project Ara

Facebook is secretly reviving Google's modular Project Ara

Many of our readers will probably remember Project Ara, Google's futuristic modular smartphone research project which got cut off from the branch before it could produce a single public prototype. And safe for Motorola's Moto mods, which sort of continues the idea to this day, Ara was the only major implementation of smartphone modularity, so its untimely death was taken as a sign the idea itself is doomed.

But while Google isn't interested in further continuing its development, Facebook seems to have quietly taken the reins of Ara instead. According to a new report from Business Insider, a secretive division in the company known as Building 8 is now employing many of the same people who previously worked on Ara, including one Regina Dugan, who previously oversaw the development of the Google project and is now head of Building 8.

A picture from Facebook's patent application showing a device with removable speaker and processor

A picture from Facebook's patent application showing a device with removable speaker and processor


The meat of the story, though, comes from a patent application filed by Facebook, which describes a "chassis and a plurality of functional modules that can be connected to the chassis," with intended uses listed being smartphones and smart speakers — which is pretty much exactly what Ara was before it was shuttered.

But since we've been burned before, we advise people to take the casual optimism route: even if such a device actually gets shipped, chances are it'll take many years before it becomes any good. This is especially so the case once you consider the fact that Facebook has little to no experience with hardware (no, Oculus doesn't count since Facebook had virtually no involvement in the Rift's development). Then again, it's nice to know that the idea once called "the future of smartphones" is still not completely dead.

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7 Comments

1. vincelongman

Posts: 5555; Member since: Feb 10, 2013

Good luck Facebook Hopefully our technology is one day capable of the Phonebloks and original ARA concepts

2. vincelongman

Posts: 5555; Member since: Feb 10, 2013

Edit ran out Facebook does have experience in hardware Their Building 8 division is like Google's ATAP, lots of R&D into various new hardware and software Also look at their work on the Open Compute Project (designing custom servers) Facebook will have the same problem as Google, our technology is not capable of Phonebloks and original ARA concepts Hopefully Facebook can eventually make a breakthrough

3. kamejoko

Posts: 247; Member since: Nov 10, 2011

This project will fail soon as firt phone of fb. People want change phone every year. They are don't want play with one phone for many years.

7. Rampage_Taco

Posts: 970; Member since: Jan 17, 2017

But Project Ara lets you change out the individual components of your phone, which is why people get new phones, they want the latest and greatest.

4. medtxa

Posts: 1655; Member since: Jun 02, 2014

So with similar spec this modular phone is how much heavier? Twice?

5. seanwhat

Posts: 321; Member since: Jul 11, 2013

it's a dumb idea. these phones will be so big compared to other phones with similar specs.

6. ImperialDynamics

Posts: 83; Member since: Nov 30, 2012

YES!!!! I dislike Google but I so loved Project Ara and was very sad when they shut it down. Now it is finally alive again!!! I so believe in modular technology.

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