Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Google Cellphones

Google Demos Modular Phone That (Almost) Actually Works 126

Posted by samzenpus
from the if-youd-like-to-make-a-call-please-wait dept.
An anonymous reader writes Google's Advanced Technology and Projects (ATAP) group demonstrated Tango, a tablet with 3D cameras similar to Microsoft's Kinect and a version of the Ara phone that could almost boot to the Android home screen (it froze during the demo) at Google I/O today. Project Ara will give $100,000 to anyone who can create an Ara module that does something current smartphones can't. From the article: "Ara moved from concept render to physical mockup in about six months, and onstage today Google demonstrated a version of the phone that could just about boot to the Android home screen. In the demo above, the phone displayed a partial boot screen before freezing. The full boot time (had the demo worked as intended) would be about a minute, which would be a long time for a shipping phone but is reasonably impressive for such an early prototype. Software is the other thing that Ara's developers need to figure out. Current Android builds ship with support for the hardware the phone runs, but they don't include a whole bunch of extraneous drivers for other modems or Wi-Fi modules or cameras or SoCs. Current phone hardware doesn't change, so Android doesn't typically need to worry about this kind of thing."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Google Demos Modular Phone That (Almost) Actually Works

Comments Filter:
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 26, 2014 @07:52PM (#47329335)

    Well I've never seen any phone with a built in grappling hook before...

  • by Ukab the Great (87152) on Thursday June 26, 2014 @08:05PM (#47329425)

    about sex toys, and then I will see child posts with links that made me wish I never did.

    • maybe not sex toys (Score:3, Interesting)

      by OutOnARock (935713)
      How about something that can read an IR sensor such that:

      1. approach woman at bar, place phone on bar next to drink

      2. phone takes baseline body temps of said woman

      3. chat with woman for 5 minutes

      4. phone takes update body temps to see where the blood is flowing

      5. pick up phone and get 1 to 10 scale on how "excited" the woman was with me



      could work on men too just have to look for different "hot spots"
      • by jd2112 (1535857)

        How about something that can read an IR sensor such that: 1. approach woman at bar, place phone on bar next to drink 2. phone takes baseline body temps of said woman 3. chat with woman for 5 minutes 4. phone takes update body temps to see where the blood is flowing 5. pick up phone and get 1 to 10 scale on how "excited" the woman was with me could work on men too just have to look for different "hot spots"

        Easy, when started just print "1".

      • Better get non-geeks to test it. Otherwise they'll turn grey trying to figure out why it's always zero.

        • by Anonymous Coward

          Better get non-geeks to test it. Otherwise they'll turn grey trying to figure out why it's always zero.

          Nah, what would happen is after the geeks are finished developing it, testing it, and calibrating it by themselves, then release it to the general market they will be confused by angry customers posting reviews "WTF DO I ALWAYS GET IntegerOverflowException ON THE ATTRACTION RATINGS?!"

      • You might get some erroneous readings from frustration and anger.
        I'd expect a simple course on body language to be more effective for most users.

      • .... looks for the "Mod post Creepy" dropdown option.
  • Now, from the people who brought you PCMCIA cards... Remember when you could slot an Ethernet interface or a modem into a PCMCIA slot? Same idea.

    Phones should be going in the other direction. No connectors at all. A phone today has about four or five radios in it; do any data transfer over WiFi or Bluetooth or the cellular link. Charging should be inductive, which will happen when one of the three competing wireless charging systems wins. Phones should be waterproof, shockproof, dust-resistant, and clos [youtube.com]

    • by mattack2 (1165421)

      Inductive charging wastes power. Don't you care about the earth?

      • Its also slow and potentially doesnt charge the phone when its in use. Generally Qi charging hits ~700mAh, which is a discharge rate that you can hit on the road with bluetooth / GPS / data.

        • by stoploss (2842505) on Thursday June 26, 2014 @10:15PM (#47330049)

          Its also slow and potentially doesnt charge the phone when its in use.

          Not only is it slow, and potentially does not charge the phone while it is in use, it also potentially does not charge the phone when it's on the charger.

          More than once, incidentally including last night, I have placed the phone on the charger before bed and awoke to a phone that did not charge because I had placed it slightly off alignment.

          I bought this Google charger for my Nexus 5 to make charging more convenient (no fumbling with micro USB with my glasses off, etc).

          That makes my experience ironic.

          • To be fair, the Nexus wireless charging pads suck. Samsung's are better, as they tend to be phone-sized, which makes for much easier alignment. http://www.samsung.com/us/mobi... [samsung.com]

          • by AmiMoJo (196126) *

            I hate to say this but you must be doing it wrong. The Google charger is magnetic and mine never fails to start charging my phone. The magnets always align it properly. I also have a Panasonic mat that detects where you put the device down and moves the charging coil under it automatically. My LG car-mount has a Qi charger too, and is designed such that it always aligns.

            Yeah, the cheap ones suck, but the good ones are not exactly expensive.

            • by stoploss (2842505)

              Meh. The magnets don't always align it properly, so you can't just drop it on and expect it to work. You have to either wait to confirm charging started or slowly move the phone around until it starts (rotating it to be perfectly aligned, or up/down + side to side)

              If I wanted to spend a lot of time dealing with charging I would just plug it in.

              I still use it, but it's not really a time saver when I have to wait a second or two to witness the charging started confirmation (sound or animation). Simply placing

              • by AmiMoJo (196126) *

                You have to either wait to confirm charging started or slowly move the phone around until it starts (rotating it to be perfectly aligned, or up/down + side to side)

                I don't have to do this. I just drop it in and the magnets pull it into alignment immediately. The area where it will charge is quite large, it doesn't have to be millimetre accurate.

                It sounds like maybe your charger or your phone is broken. Google are pretty good with returns, I'd contact them and ask about it.

          • AFAIK there are chargers that can align the phone with magnets-- wont fix the poor charge rate though.

            • by stoploss (2842505)

              Thanks, but the Google charger does indeed have powerful magnets. The problem is that they don't always pull the phone into the correct alignment for charging.

              They are strong enough to grab and hold it to the charger firmly while it is still out of alignment. If you don't witness the charging indication starting within a few seconds, you must move the phone to see if it is properly aligned.

              The difference between charging alignment and incorrect alignment is less than 1 cm.

        • by Megol (3135005)

          How about USB charging? A standard USB host can have a limit of 500mA (most can deliver more current) and using a powered USB 2 hub that limit is often enforced.

          • Comparing mA is stupid without also comparing voltage. The USB can provide 500mA at 5V, which is 2.5W. There are also modes for higher power, but they require negotiation. The Qi charging spec allows delivering up to 5W to low-power devices, 120W to high-power ones.
          • For charging the protocol has been extended to 2100 mA @ 4.8V (approx 10 watt). That's what a standard USB wall wart delivers nowadays.
            A standard USB host is not suitable to charge a tablet from. That would only slow the power usage down (when the tablet is in full use)

          • The 500mA limit is a thing of the past, and has been for many years. That limit is for devices that have not negotiated higher amperage; its not unusual to see 1.5A charge rates with an android. Not sure what the iPhones hit, but I wouldnt be surprised if they dont get ~1.5-2A as well.

      • by Megol (3135005)

        It's possible to get >90% efficiency with wireless power, I don't know if I'd call that wasting...

    • God no, the trend to wireless only is the worst.

      I want a high-speed wired interface on my phone. Like, if you can fit a 10g ethernet port in there, I want that. I also want a mini-display port connector.

      Radios are for differential transfer and continuity. If I need to move data on and off the device, I want that done as fast as possible.

      • I'd rather have a Thunderbolt port on the phone and put everything else (external GPU, SATA controller, GigE controller, and so on) in a PCIe dock.
      • Ports mean entry points for water and dust, crappy covers or expensive ports.
        Phones need to be waterproof IMHO. They get wet during an unexpected rain while commuting by bike, so they better be able to handle water.
        Data transfer via IEEE 802.11ac (theoretical 500 Mbit/s) is plenty fast for most cases. It's a phone, not a fileserver.
        For DisplayPort: there are a couple of companies quite busy with wireless HDMI. It would require another antenna and an additional chip, but that's where it's going.

        • You can design a metal contact based port which is dust and water proof. We just currently don't but it's hardly an insurmountable challenge.

      • by DavidYaw (447706)

        I also want a mini-display port connector.

        They already have that. You can plug your phone into a monitor with a SlimPort [wikipedia.org] adapter.

  • ... automatically when out of reach of a base station.
    There's prob. an app for that -- I need to look.

    Okay, how 'bout this for project Ara: a module that
    will learn to parrot me, that can fake me going about town
    and carry the phone, leave a fake triangulation trace, fake
    usage, mail, web, settings twiddling -- the works, everything
    indistinguishable from the real live thing.
    There should be a market for this.

    • by Hanzie (16075) *

      Okay, how 'bout this for project Ara: a module that will learn to parrot me, that can fake me going about town and carry the phone, leave a fake triangulation trace, fake usage, mail, web, settings twiddling -- the works, everything indistinguishable from the real live thing.
      There should be a market for this.

      I'm sure the gNarly Super Apps company will be making that module for you in no time...

    • Turning off WiFi when you're out of range of a base station is easy. Turning it back on when you come back in range is hard...
      • I imagine a device could save the GPS coordinates when it associates to an AP. Later, it'd trilaterate from cell towers or GPS to determine when it's close to that location before listening for beacons again.
        • by Kiwikwi (2734467)

          ... the problem is not "listening for beacons", you can do that without broadcasting your position to the whole world (NSA included...).

          For some reasons, modern smartphones constantly yell in all directions, "Hear me! Hear me! My globally unique ID is 02:12:f6:12:8a:33! That said, any nice APs around that I might know?".

          This despite the fact that standard APs broadcast beacons every 102.4 ms, obviating the need for the phone to send anything until it wants to actually associate.

          Not sending beacons all

          • by tepples (727027)

            For privacy reasons, phones should of course also randomize their MAC address before every association request. There are 46 bits available for randomization

            I thought network interface makers were supposed to use only MACs from their own respective registered prefixes.

            • by Kiwikwi (2734467)

              For privacy reasons, phones should of course also randomize their MAC address before every association request. There are 46 bits available for randomization

              I thought network interface makers were supposed to use only MACs from their own respective registered prefixes.

              That goes for the statically assigned MAC addresses, yes. But if the first octet ends with the bits 01, it is a "locally administered unicast address" [wikipedia.org], for which there are no assignment rules - you can pick whatever value you want. (Hence 46 bits, not 48 bits.)

              In theory, the local system administrator is supposed to assign the MAC addresses. In practice, randomization is the optimal assignment strategy. These random addresses will never collide with a statically assigned address (which do not have a first o

        • Cell gives you far too coarse-grained information for that to be useful. GPS uses more power than leaving the WiFi on in receive-only mode.
  • "Almost" works? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by maccodemonkey (1438585) on Thursday June 26, 2014 @08:50PM (#47329657)

    "In the demo above, the phone displayed a partial boot screen before freezing."

    "Google Demos Modular Phone That (Almost) Actually Works"

    Maybe it's just me, but if a phone can't even get to the dialer to make a phone call, that's a little further from "actually working" than "almost."

    I mean that seriously. My problem isn't with the phone itself. My problem is with the overly generous summary.

    Call me a troll, but if any company other than Google unveiled this phone, and it didn't even boot during the demo, I don't think the reaction would be as positive.

    • Re: (Score:1, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Considering that it even displayed a boot screen. It means their pll(s), power distribution management(s), board support package(s), hardware design managed to get all the components and interconnects to a functional state.

      That actually is very impressive given the timeline. Once you're at this point, figuring out the configurations changes needed to get things running smoothly is comparatively trivial.

    • Maybe it's just me, but if a phone can't even get to the dialer to make a phone call, that's a little further from "actually working" than "almost."

      A phone that can get to the dialler to make a phone call would be "working". So you're not willing to acknowledge something as "almost working" until it's actually fully functional?

    • by Salgat (1098063)
      Considering this is focused on a huge change to the hardware, the fact that it even can start booting shows they have significant progress in it. I have a feeling you have no idea how much work it takes to get to that point. Hell, the original iPhone barely managed to boot and had to follow a strict order of actions when doing it at the original Apple unveiling or else it would crash. This is still a phone very much in development, you need to respect that.
    • Call me a troll, but if any company other than Google unveiled this phone, and it didn't even boot during the demo, I don't think the reaction would be as positive.

      What about Microsoft [youtube.com]?

  • Yeah it's modular and a few years from now they'll upgrade the bus or tweak the dimensions or bump the battery requirements and now that modular phone is as obsolete as all the rest. Or worse, future modules are gimped to conform to the old standard and include circuitry to step down in some way. Either way users get a device which costs more and doesn't deliver something tangibly better.
  • What do you mean I have a conflict on an IRQ????

    I plugs in this video card and it works. I plugs in this video card and it doesn't.

    I think the concept is cool and as the pathways between modules gets faster, it will be great. But I'll wait for a few more releases before I try it. Unless someone gives me one for super cheap.

    • "Well, you bastard, they you shouldn't have assigned that IRQ to two devices. Don't you keep a list?"
      Yeah that time was "fun".

  • It's called Autoconfig [wikipedia.org]. Essentially, Autoconfig does IRQ and address assignment (And is so good at it that Intel copied it for their "Plug'n'Play" system), but Autoconfig does more than that. It also initializes the firmware and loads it in. And the firmware for each device then contains the necessary libraries to (at the very least) get the hardware running. So, for example, hard-drive controllers get their drivers loaded and the hard-drive becomes available as a boot device, network cards are initialized

    • by jd2112 (1535857)

      It's called Autoconfig [wikipedia.org]

      Or, alternately, 'Plug and P[l|r]ay'.

    • by itzly (3699663)
      You'll still need a way to update the drivers, and if you can update them, you can also use the same mechanism to download them in the first place. No need for extra flash chips in every peripheral.
      • by Anaerin (905998)

        Okay, so here's a scenario for you. I've just built a nice new Ara phone. It has a computing module, a camera module, an LTE/GSM+SIM module, a 802.11a/b/g/n/ac module, 128GBs of storage, a touchscreen and a fingerprint reader.

        It's the first time I've put this device together, with brand new parts out of the box. How am I meant to download the drivers? I can't use the WiFi, or the cellular modem, I don't have drivers for them yet. And I can't display any kind of configuration, because the display isn't set u

        • by itzly (3699663)
          You do it just like on a Linux PC/laptop. The OS comes packaged with all the drivers. And if you have a modular system where you can plug and play random hardware components, you'll need to standardize the interfaces anyway. If you have standard interfaces, it's easy to have a default compatibility mode, where a device will work with a basic driver to provide enough functionality so the user can download and install all the driver updates.
      • by drinkypoo (153816)

        You'll still need a way to update the drivers, and if you can update them, you can also use the same mechanism to download them in the first place. No need for extra flash chips in every peripheral.

        You need flash if you want to update the early driver. Some Amiga cards' roms didn't work properly with later versions of the OS, and you couldn't use them at all, or you couldn't use them at boot. You had to wait for the OS to load, and load the driver.

    • by Rich0 (548339)

      That only works if you have a stable driver ABI. We can't even get that within a single OS over very long periods of time, let alone across competing OSes.

  • by stox (131684) on Thursday June 26, 2014 @10:08PM (#47330023) Homepage

    One for the business, or for each business, one for the kids, one for the wife, and one for the mistress.

  • and self destruct (after releasing some magic smoke & without harming other modules) in five seconds.
  • that prints odors, especially the one that triggers your anger management therapist's post-hypnotic suggestion to go to your happy place and postpone the anger response that would spike your blood pressure and trigger another cardiac episode.

Our policy is, when in doubt, do the right thing. -- Roy L. Ash, ex-president, Litton Industries

Working...