SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) --It was demonstration day for a program called HAXLR8R and robots were on parade.
Big companies are ready to shell out billions of dollars for cool new inventions and entrepreneurs are moving the hardware business.
Kuji Nakamoto is holding what looks like an ordinary Zippo lighter.
"We designed it to look very nice so the smoker would actually want to use something like this. But, at the same time, it's trying to kill itself by, you know, helping you slowly cut back so you can try to quit," he said.
It tracks every time you smoke, how many and how often. And, if it does its job, people won't need it anymore.
"My co-founder has already quit using our prototypes, and I'm on my way," said Nakamoto.
Quitbit is just one of the new gadgets to come out of HAXLR8R, a program that fosters tiny startups making cool hardware; like Avidbots, dubbed Roomba on steroids.
"A sweeping robot and a scrubbing robot that are going to clean all your shopping malls, Walmart's and airports," said Faizan Sheikh with Avidbots.
They use lasers to map out the floor, and just like a janitor, people pay by the hour.
"It's $6.00 an hour for scrubbing and $4.00 for sweeping," said Sheikh.
Some jobs aren't fun at any price like hand-painting car parts.
"You want to automate that because it's dangerous and dirty and it's not something a human should be doing," said Ashley Reddy with Rational Robotics.
The little robot can do what was previously only in factories.
If all the products have one thing in common, it's how tiny the companies are that make them. And, that points to a colossal shift in the tech world.
"Instead of the old days where the leading hardware products were made by the biggest companies, now the leading hardware products are made by some very small companies. And, the big companies are buying those companies up," said HAXLR8R Co-Founder Sean O'Sullivan.
After Oculus Rift sold its gaming headset to Facebook for $2 billion, the hardware hackers can only hope to be next.
That's why they've spent the last three months in China learning to manufacture like the big boys.
"It's about creating really, really great value for the consumers that are buying the product. And, that means we need to be manufacturing in large quantity," said O'Sullivan.