Project Ara’s magnetic module system couldn’t stand up to stress testing
Last week we got a long overdue update on Google ATAP’s progress with Project Ara, first learning about changes to the planned commercial pilot program. This week new details started arriving, like how we’d be waiting until at least next year to see that program get underway, and how Ara was considering new test markets across the US. We started to get a better picture for what was happening, but still didn’t know much about the “why” of it; what had caused Google’s plans to change to the extent that they have? Yesterday the group behind the effort mentioned some module regrouping plans that would free up space for additional components, and today the crew shares one more tidbit, mentioning a failure of the magnetic attachment system that was to hold those modules in place.
Google had long intended on using electropermanent magnets for Ara: essentially, switchable magnets that can be turned on or off, without needing an ongoing current source. We’ve been wondering since last year just how robust a magnetic-based system might be, and if it could really hold everything together in real-world usage. Apparently there really was cause for concern, and today Google ATAP announces that it’s dropping the magnets from Ara’s design, citing failures when conducting drop tests.
OK, but if not magnets, then what will Ara use to hold onto its modules? We don’t know just yet, but we’re told to expect “a signature experience to attach/detach modules.” Whatever Google’s planning, it’s not sharing the details just yet.