Mystery Invention 'Ginger' May Be Motorized Scooter
Set to Be Unveiled in 2002 by Millionaire Inventor
By Eric Auchard and Tim Castle
NEW YORK (Jan. 12) - The mystery invention code-named ''Ginger'' that has set
the technology world abuzz may be little more than a motorized miniscooter,
judging from a recent patent application that came to light on Friday.
A Dec. 14, 2000, filing with the World Intellectual Property Organization
available on the Internet at <A HREF="http://www.wipo.org">www.wipo.org</A>
describes a ''class of transportation vehicles for carrying an individual
over ground ... that is unstable with respect to tipping when ... not
A picture of this ''personal mobility vehicle'' shows what appears to be a
young girl balanced on a two-wheeled scooter. The patent application fits
descriptions made in broadcast reports by people claiming to have seen
prototypes of the vehicle.
A proposal for a planned book about the mysterious invention described it as
possibly more important than the World Wide Web and capable of generating
fantastic riches, exciting a wave of media speculation over the machine.
Harvard Business School Press is said to have paid $250,000 for the book
detailing the device, also referred to as ''IT,'' which is set to be unveiled
in 2002 by millionaire inventor Dean Kamen. Kamen's previous inventions
include a portable insulin pump and a wheelchair that climbs stairs.
A spokeswoman for the publisher declined to comment on Friday.
CALLED EASY TO ASSEMBLE
The invention is said to take just 10 minutes to assemble using simple tools,
according to details from the book proposal published by media industry
watchers Inside.com. Each Ginger object could cost less than $2,000. Top
computer industry figures and investment bankers were named as backers,
In a statement issued on Thursday, Kamen, 49, declined to reveal much about
the device, saying, ''While our projects are in the development phase and
have client confidentiality requirements, it is impossible for us to comment
Calls to Kamen and his company, DEKA Research of Manchester, New Hampshire,
seeking comment on the patent application were not returned.
After seeing a prototype, Jeff Bezos, the founder of online retailer
Amazon.com, was quoted as saying that IT ''is a product so revolutionary
you'll have no problem selling it. The question is, are people going to be
allowed to use it?''
A scooter like one described in Kamen's recent application might piggyback on
the popularity of Razor, the manually powered scooter that became a hit with
American youth over the past year. More than 5 million of the devices have
been sold, inspiring a host of imitators, Razor USA LLC said in December.
Ginger was the subject of an hourlong U.S. talk show on CNN. On the Internet,
debate raged over what the device might be, with opinions raging from
enthusiastic to sarcastic to bombastic.
Some questioned if the device was not, in fact, a personal Hovercraft, with
the patent meant to throw the public off the real scent. Others argued it was
an updated version of Kamen's wheelchairs or a sophisticated can opener or a
''So what! This is all hype to sell a book,'' one skeptic said on an online
message board. ''You people in the media need to be a little more skeptical.
If it's so great, why does it have to be a secret?''
Revolutionary personal transport systems have been revealed to an expectant,
and disbelieving, world before.
In January 1985 British inventor Sir Clive Sinclair unveiled his
three-wheeler C5, a kind of surfboard tricycle in which plucky drivers lay on
their backs and navigated the roads feet first.
Powered by battery and pedaling, the low-level vehicle was invisible to
trucks. It was immediately condemned by Britain's Automobile Association as
''a hazard to the occupant and other road users.''
Sales were minimal and production stopped within months. Sinclair's
reputation as the distinguished inventor of cheap calculators and computers
was in tatters, his C5 a national joke.
A satirical song occasioned by the invention of the C5 contains the line
''Don't want a Jag, don't want a Merc, I want to look like an absolute berk
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