nexpaq, the Hong Kong-based startup behind the popular modular smartphone case, has announced that it will be holding a three-day hackathon in Melbourne later this month.
To be held in association with the Carlton Connect Initiative and the Melbourne Networked Society at the University of Melbourne from August 21 to 23, the hackathon will see teams develop new modules for the nexpaq case. Launched on Kickstarter earlier this year, the nexpaq campaign to fund the production of the case and modules raised over $279,000 from almost 2,000 backers.
nexpaq describes modules as ‘Lego bricks with special powers’; they allow a user to add and enhance features on their smartphone by inserting a module into a smartphone case. The case has built-in battery power and slots of six modules. Available modules include an amplified speaker, temperature and humidity reader, hotkeys, flash drive, air quality reader, and a breathalyser. nexpaq’s modules can be swapped between Android and iOS devices.
The nexpaq case has been likened to Google’s Project Ara. However, while nexpaq enhances the features or capabilities of an existing smartphone, Project Ara is a modular smartphone system that essentially breaks apart the components of a smartphone – it uses a phone ‘skeleton’ on which modules can be added, allowing users to configure their phone from scratch.
Google states, “You can upgrade different parts of your phone when you need to. Replace a broken display. Save up for a high-end camera. Share a module with your family, or swap one with your friends. Now you don’t have to throw your phone away every few years.”
Google and nexpaq believe that after apps, modules are the next stage in the evolution of the smartphone as people become more savvy about their devices and their capabilities.
The Ara device will run on Android, but as of yet Google states that it is still a development project and not an official Google, Android, or Nexus product. However, it hopes to launch a limited market pilot later this year.
nexpaq is looking to deliver cases by January, and will be opening an online store for new crowdsourced modules created through its module developer kit. Modules created at the Melbourne hackathon will be judged on criteria including their market appeal, hardware app suitability, and the potential for a software app. The winners will receive cash prizes, and will see their module sold to nexpaq users.
The Melbourne hackathon is to be the first in a series taking place around the world, with nexpaq hoping to hold one every six months in a different city as voted by users.
Interested teams can register for the hackathon here.