Saul Griffith, 31
Following inspiration for inventing
Before Saul Griffith perfected his five-minute method for making custom-crafted lenses for $5, he volunteered in South America, where he once had to hand a pair of dainty granny glasses to a six-foot-tall man: they were the only pair the volunteer group had that fit the mans prescription, he recalls. And it was from kite-surfing, a sport that relies on the strength of the ropes tethering a surfer to a wind-drawn parachute, that Griffith drew the idea for smart ropes, in which embedded conductive threads reveal developing weaknesses. After pursuing such ideas en route to his doctorate at the MIT Media Lab, he cofounded Squid Labs to explore the business of inventing. Among his projects: "open source hardware," to do for computer equipment what Linux did for operating systems.