Project Ara: Erring on the Side of Epic

Written by Andrew J. Meyer, LeafLabs CEO

An early Project Ara phone boots for the first time!

An early Project Ara phone boots for the first time!

Among my favorite moments during the three years we worked with Google to build Project Ara, was reading the deluge of internet comments following the press coverage of Google I/O 2014. The responses were split roughly 50/50 between “shut up and take my money” and “I’m an engineer and this is impossible...and stupid.” We knew we were on to something. We also knew a lot more than any of the commenters about what the technical risks and challenges actually were.

It was past the time that we should have gone home, earlier that spring, when we huddled around a lab bunch, inserted a few fully assembled modules - display, processor, and battery - into a sleek aluminum frame, and saw the Android logo pop-up for the first time on a Project Ara phone. I think the battery died pretty soon after that, which was longer than we expected. Engineering had barely started 6 months before, and for the first time, I changed my technical opinion about Paul Eremenko’s grand vision of a modular phone from “probably impossible,” to “let’s get it done.”

Thanks, Paul, for a vision that was absolutely worth chasing. Thanks, Regina and Ken, for pushing us to err on the side of epic. Thanks, Ara and Seth, for inviting us to be a “part of it.” Thank you, Google, for having the courage to keep looking beyond what’s “obviously possible” for new products.

Most of all, thank you to the tremendously talented engineers, both inside and outside of LeafLabs, who reliably pulled rabbits from hats, repeatedly solved problems the internet specifically deemed unsolvable, and for being a team that I’m proud to have been a part of.