Arduino-based Android hardware debuts at Google I/O

There's more to Android than just hacking that app or operating system, says Google. You'll soon be able to hack Android hardware too, thanks to a new Arduino-based platform.

SAN FRANCISCO--There's more to hacking Android than just customizing the operating system. Soon you'll be able to customize your own Android hardware, Google announced today at Moscone Center West during its Google I/O confab.

The Android Open Accessory initiative and the Android Device Kit, which is built on the open-source Arduino, will let developers create their own hardware accessories that can be controlled by Android. During this morning's keynote speech, Google demonstrated a Labyrinth-style game controlled using the ADK.

Google's customizable, Arduino-based hardware accessory. James Martin/CNET

Google hopes the ADK will be used to expand Android use beyond phones and tablets.

"Don't think of it as something we build," said Andy Rubin, head of Google's Android project. "Think of it as something that you can use to expand what Android can do."

Another example he noted was one person, presumably a Googler, who has used it to build a hydroponic growing system. He did not speculate about what the hydroponics were being used to grow.

The ADK is similar to SparkFun's IOIO, a hackable piece of hardware that plugs directly into your Android device. However, Google's ADK will run fully independently of existing hardware. This means that you can make your own hardware running Android.

Rubin appeared visibly excited as he talked about the ADK at a press conference after the keynote speech. "Knowing what I know internally, we're going to start seeing some really cool things coming soon" that are connected to the ADK, he added.

Despite the internal excitement for the project, Google was cagey on details. There was no announcement of a release date or price for the ADK.

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