Motorola gave hope to a lot of smartphone fans who have long been frustrated by the limited number of hardware options available to them when it announced its Project Ara late last month. The wildly ambitious effort seeks to change how we think about hardware design, no longer forced to choose from combinations of phone components as dictated by a manufacturer, but free to combine interchangeable modules to build exactly the phone we’re looking for. While Motorola offered some very cool images of early Ara designs, it was clear there’s still a lot of work to be done, and even the alpha version of the project’s development kit won’t be available until this winter. As we wait to see what becomes of Ara, we get word today of a new partnership Motorola has formed, linking up with 3D Systems.
As shouldn’t be that hard to guess from its name, 3D Systems is heavily into 3D printing – exactly the sort of company you want on your side when you’re setting out to produce a lot of custom hardware like Ara will demand. 3D Systems will be responsible for creating both the Ara enclosure – which we take to mean the “endoskeleton,” as Motorola referred to it – as well as the individual hardware modules which will populate the endo.
It’s good to see Motorola taking this seriously and lining up the help it needs, because Ara has the potential to really change how we shop for phones. It’s probably a long, long way off before it’s anywhere near ready for retail – getting FCC clearances alone threatens to be an abject nightmare – but we can’t wait to see what it becomes.