These 'Alpha Geeks' are already living in the future (photos)

The thinkers, designers, engineers, and hackers at the center of the maker movement are focused on the innovation business. At the MAKE Hardware Innovation Workshop this week, the open-source community shows its dedication to giving back more than you take.

James Martin
James Martin is the Managing Editor of Photography at CNET. His photos capture technology's impact on society - from the widening wealth gap in San Francisco, to the European refugee crisis and Rwanda's efforts to improve health care. From the technology pioneers of Google and Facebook, photographing Apple's Steve Jobs and Tim Cook, Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg and Google's Sundar Pichai, to the most groundbreaking launches at Apple and NASA, his is a dream job for any documentary photography and journalist with a love for technology. Exhibited widely, syndicated and reprinted thousands of times over the years, James follows the people and places behind the technology changing our world, bringing their stories and ideas to life.
James Martin
1 of 20 James Martin/CNET

Tim O'Reilly at PARC

Around the San Francisco Bay Area, a vibrant community of "Alpha Geeks" are already living in the future. These people are the thinkers, designers, engineers, and hackers at the center of the maker movement -- the DIY culture focused on the innovation business and a community dedicated to giving more than you take.

Speaking yesterday at the Palo Alto Research Center at the MAKE Hardware Innovation Workshop, Tim O'Reilly addressed a room full these "Alpha Geeks" -- 150 or so big thinkers who are on the leading edge of the DIY maker community.

"Great things begin with people having fun, but they don't end there", O'Reilly said. He sees MAKE's mission as finding these interesting technologies and people who are innovating from the edge, and amplifying their effectiveness, taking their passion and desire to have an impact on the world and enabling a commercial narrative -- making creativity sustainable by making it a viable business.

We're going through a dynamic shift -- the future is here, O'Reilly says, it's just not evenly distributed yet. Silicon Valley started with hardware, and through the community and open-source environment, hardware is again redefining the maker movement, with makers' tech turning into consumer products at incredible speeds.
2 of 20 James Martin/CNET

DIY badges

Attendees at the MAKE Hardware Innovation Workshop at PARC were encouraged to get creative and build out their badges with tables filled with lettered tiles, game pieces, trinkets, and glue.
3 of 20 James Martin/CNET

Oru origami kayak

Oru is an incredible folding kayak. The boat weights just 20 pounds and folds up into a compact, suitcase-sized package for easy transportation.
4 of 20 James Martin/CNET

MAKE Hardware Innovation Workshop at PARC

The Palo Alto Research Center hosts a speakers series and showcase of innovators on an outdoor patio Tuesday evening where 23 makers -- designers, builders, inventors, and hackers -- demoed their products, devices, and projects.
5 of 20 James Martin/CNET

The Interactive Robotic Racetrack

Blue Screen Labs is a maker venture that has grown out of the TechShop in San Francisco. We profiled some of the team members earlier work with their very cool Super Mario Light. At the Maker Innovation Workshop, they are showing off the Interactive Robotic Racetrack, a head-to-head race of spheres. The Amazing Robotic Balls, dubbed Sphero, are controlled with Xbox controllers.
6 of 20 James Martin/CNET

MakerBot Industries' 3D printer

MakerBot Industries' Replicator is an open-source 3D printer that makes affordable home manufacturing possible. New fabrication tools like these printers are creating a rapid-prototyping revolution that makes iteration cheaper, faster, and easier.
7 of 20 James Martin/CNET

MaKey MaKey controls anything!

The MaKey MaKey is a control system that interfaces anything in the real world with your computer controls. By assigning simple computer keyboard and mouse functions to inputs that can be attached to literally anything, you can make lemons control your piano, or balls of Play-Doh be the commands for your game of Pac-Man, as seen here.
8 of 20 James Martin/CNET

Lockitron door locks

Lockitron lets you lock and unlock your doors from anywhere in the world using an app or text message. Using an API that lets makers build on top of the system using Arduino or Xbox Kinect, Lockitron showed off an easy (but highly unsecure) iPhone style "slide-to-unlock" doormat.
9 of 20 James Martin/CNET

Connecting iOS to Arduino

Babilim Light Industries is connecting iOS to the open-source world with Arduino and an innovative Redpark serial cable.
10 of 20 James Martin/CNET

Autodesk's powerful 3D design software

Autodesk's powerful 3D design and engineering software is a powerful technology originally built for larger manufacturing and design studios that's now available to help anyone share ideas.
11 of 20 James Martin/CNET

SyynLabs' Eric Gradman

SyynLabs' Eric Gradman discussed his use of sensors, cameras, and code to give cameras a more detailed eye, letting them better "see" the world around us.
12 of 20 James Martin/CNET

The Type A Series One

The Type A Machines Series One 3D printer is bigger and faster than many 3D printers on the market.
13 of 20 James Martin/CNET

3D printed cups

Install the drivers, download a 3D model, import the file, and send it to the Type A Series One 3D printer, and you can be drinking from your own homemade cups within minutes.
14 of 20 James Martin/CNET

Laser cutters

Tools once reserved for manufacturing and industrial uses, like this Hurricane Laser Cutter, have made a huge impact on maker culture, giving high-end tool access to small scale users at hacker spaces and builder communities like TechShop.
15 of 20 James Martin/CNET

iPhone robots

iPhone-enabled robots roam at the Palo Alto Research Center during the MAKE Hardware Innovation Workshop on Tuesday.
16 of 20 James Martin/CNET

eChanter open-source electronic bagpipe

eChanter is a unique open-source musical project: an electronic bagpipe. Based on Arduino, and easy to hack, the free open-source design costs just $20 to $50 in parts to build.
17 of 20 James Martin/CNET

Local Motors' open-source car

Local Motors Rally Fighter, seen here parked in front of PARC in Palo Alto, Calif., is a DIY open-source car that you build yourself. The design was crowdsourced by a community of designers, engineers, and auto enthusiasts and built mostly with off-the-shelf components with assembly done by the customers themselves, assisted by Local Motors engineers in facilities they call Local Motors micro-factories.
18 of 20 James Martin/CNET

Open-source underwater robot

Looking to explore a new world? Try building one of the open-source underwater robot kits from OpenROV.
19 of 20 James Martin/CNET


Small sensors in the Asthmapolis attachment for inhalable medicines captures data about how, where, and when patients use their medicines, providing public health agencies with the first real-time view of disease in their communities.
20 of 20 James Martin/CNET

Tinkercad 3D design

Tinkercad is 3D design software that is simple and easily accessible, providing a bridge between 2D conceptual drawings and creating real world projects.

More Galleries

My Favorite Shots From the Galaxy S24 Ultra's Camera
A houseplant

My Favorite Shots From the Galaxy S24 Ultra's Camera

20 Photos
Honor's Magic V2 Foldable Is Lighter Than Samsung's Galaxy S24 Ultra

Honor's Magic V2 Foldable Is Lighter Than Samsung's Galaxy S24 Ultra

10 Photos
The Samsung Galaxy S24 and S24 Plus Looks Sweet in Aluminum
Samsung Galaxy S24

The Samsung Galaxy S24 and S24 Plus Looks Sweet in Aluminum

23 Photos
Samsung's Galaxy S24 Ultra Now Has a Titanium Design
The Galaxy S24 Ultra in multiple colors

Samsung's Galaxy S24 Ultra Now Has a Titanium Design

23 Photos
I Took 600+ Photos With the iPhone 15 Pro and Pro Max. Look at My Favorites

I Took 600+ Photos With the iPhone 15 Pro and Pro Max. Look at My Favorites

34 Photos
17 Hidden iOS 17 Features You Should Definitely Know About
Invitation for the Apple September iPhone 15 event

17 Hidden iOS 17 Features You Should Definitely Know About

18 Photos
AI or Not AI: Can You Spot the Real Photos?

AI or Not AI: Can You Spot the Real Photos?

17 Photos