Google’s futuristic modular smart phone has the potential to dramatically change how we think of electronics. The still unreleased phone call Project Ara has a interior metal structure with slots for different components to connect. For example, modular components could house a camera, battery, touch screen display, or speaker. These components snap into place making a relatively standard looking smartphone. Consumers could purchase components and assemble them to make a personalized smartphone. The phone allows consumers to exchange a component for extra battery power or a more powerful camera depending on the situation.
With such customizable hardware, the Ara phone could adapt to fit the needs of people with various disabilities. If users have a hearing impairment they could add a louder speaker component. Conversely, if a user is deaf there is no need to waste space with a speaker when the space could be used for something more useful. The possibilities are almost limitless. A blind user could possibly opt not to have a touch screen display in favor of a refreshable Braille display. Users with dexterity challenges could add a tactile keyboard.
While Project Ara sounds promising for people with disabilities, the implementation is key. Will third party hardware developers make specialized components for people with disabilities at an affordable price? Can Google successfully configure Android to work properly with any assistive add ons third parties make? Project Ara phones won’t be available for for many months, but the project offers some exciting possibilities.