THANK YAHOO AND REUTERS FOR THIS:
Dean Kamen Set to Unveil Mysterious 'IT' Invention
By Eric Auchard
NEW YORK (Reuters) - ``IT,'' the mysterious, much- hyped invention that a down-on-its-luck hi-tech world has seized on as a possible revolutionary breakthrough in the realm of personal transportation, is ready to be unveiled on Monday.
IT, also known by the code-name ``Ginger,'' is said to be some sort of personal Hovercraft or radical new transportation device, perhaps one that relies on an emission-free Stirling engine that recycles much of its own heat.
Accomplished inventor Dean Kamen is set to detail his plans in newspaper and television interviews early next week, a spokesman said, putting an end to nearly a year of wild media frenzy and Web-chat speculation over the nature of what IT is.
The 50-year-old Kamen invented the first portable insulin pump in the 1970s, then a briefcase-sized dialysis machine and more recently a stair-climbing wheelchair. He lives and works outside of Manchester, New Hampshire, where his DEKA Research & Development Corp. employs around 165 employees.
Kamen himself has refused to talk about his plans in public. Instead, he has used media interviews and frequent hi-tech and scientific conference appearances to promote his pet philanthropy, For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology (FIRST).
Each year, FIRST sponsors a nationwide robotics-building competition to encourage teenagers to become scientists and engineers.
THE MYSTERY OF 'IT' FILLS VOID FOR HI-TECH HOPEFULS
Whether or not IT lives up to its advance billing, Ginger has supplied high-tech hopefuls in search of the next big thing with cause for optimism during a year that has bristled with headlines of economic downturn, a tech spending slump and war.
Some enthusiasts are clearly having fun imagining the possibilities. Others appear desperate to believe everything they read.
Word of IT first leaked out in January in a report published in the now-defunct online media tip-sheet Inside.com, which reported on a book proposal presented to Harvard Business School Press about Kamen's secretive project.
Tech leaders like Apple Computer Co. co-founder Steve Jobs , Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos and top venture capitalist John Doerr are said to have been enthralled by a demonstration of a prototype device and to have invested millions of dollars.
But no one who knows anything is saying, leaving anyone who does not know to wonder.
``Dean is disillusioned with all the press attention,'' said Jack Kamen, the inventor's father, a retired advertising illustrator, who redesigned the look of the irreverent Mad magazine in the 1950s.
``He doesn't like the analysis of the stuff that gets leaked out,'' the elder Kamen, who now lives in Bedford, New Hampshire, told Reuters on Friday.
WEB FAN SITES KEEP 'IT' SPECULATION ALIVE
Popular fascination with the endless possibilities has inspired a variety of Web sites devoted to discovering the inventor's secret, as well as spoofing it.
These include sites such as the IT question (http://theITquestion.com
) and links to some of the more than 150 U.S. and foreign patent applications filed by Kamen.
Pictures accompanying a Kamen a Dec. 14, 2000 patent application with the World Intellectual Property Organization depict a young girl balanced on a two-wheeled scooter that is described as a, ``personal mobility vehicle''.
``I know what IT is,'' boasts one active chat room, but responses range all over the map from mentions of flying wheelchairs to fluid dynamics.
``Anyone know what stock to invest in for Ginger?'' asks another discussion thread.
Apple Computer Inc., Amazon.com Inc Walt Disney Co. , or a variety of hydrogen fuel cell companies that might benefit.
Another such site, Ginger-Chat.com, promises to keep fans of the mystery contraption apprised of all the latest news, chat-room gossip and background. It even offers a clock counting down the days, hours and minutes until Kamen is scheduled to appear on a U.S. breakfast TV show this Monday.
ABC breakfast television anchor Diane Sawyer promised earlier this week to reveal the invention on her Dec. 3 show.
``One week from today, we're going to reveal right here what IT is,'' she told viewers last Monday, adding she had heard IT was something ``everyone will have to have'' and ``immediately make the people who own it richer than Bill Gates''
``We don't know what (IT is) either. We don't know whether to eat it, to ride it, to co-anchor with it. We don't know,'' Sawyer said on air to her show's co-host, Charles Gibson.