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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.