Designed to be used by “six billion people” and starting at just $50 USD for a starter kit, Google’s Project Ara modular smartphone is designed to be iterated on by “hundreds of thousands of developers” and sold similar to how the Google Play store is structured – however for hardware rather than media and apps.

The phone, which is designed to accommodate multiple modules created by both Google and third-party developers, consists primarily of a base ‘skeleton’ with multiple slots for plugging in any combination of modules.

So far, various module designs have consisted of batteries, cameras, laser pointers, projectors, game controllers, medical devices and more. The end-goal is to allow a user to ‘design their own smartphone’ to fit their individual needs rather than adjusting to the limited capabilities of a mass-manufactured phone design that may or may not satisfy their needs. For some, their module choices may include the addition of game controller buttons if they are heavy gamers, for others, it may be a combination of battery modules for extended battery life during a camping trip.

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Perhaps more interestingly though, is that Google anticipates (and even encourages) developers with programming and modeling skills to create 3D printable modules that can be shared or sold for the Project Ara platform…meaning, all of the hobbyists who have been tinkering with their Arduinos and MakerBots the past few years may soon have a way to monetize their hobby via an App Store-like setup.

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At the Project Ara Module Developers Conference today (a livestream of the event is at the bottom of the post), Google announced that they will be shipping a pilot program to Puerto Rico for the second half of 2015 to test the platform and usability. They also shared some images that show just how customizable the Project Ara phone will be:

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YouTube video

While other release dates are unknown, you can find out more and stay updated over at the Project Ara Developer site.

(Images via Google)

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