Dean Kamen's 'IT'

Kamen's Ginger

An invention by a noted inventor Dean Kamen, continues to generate excitement and mystery. "IT", is supposedly so extraordinary, that it has drawn the attention of technology visionaries and the investment dollars of pre-eminent venture capitalists.

In the meantime, Kamen's iBOT has made good progress - this is an all-terrain wheelchair that can climb stairs, cross sand, and effortlessly balance on two wheels.

However, there are those who balk at the outrageous claims. There are lots of links here - do your own web-sleuthing.....

Extracts from eNews

eNews January 17, 2001

Amazing new invention - what is IT??

Here is something exciting, that has kept me awake at night, wondering.....

A recent invention by a noted inventor, 49-year-old scientist Dean Kamen, is generating excitement and mystery. "IT", is so extraordinary, that it has drawn the attention of technology visionaries Jeff Bezos (Amazon) and Steve Jobs (Apple) and the investment dollars of pre-eminent Silicon Valley venture capitalist John Doerr, and Credit Suisse First Boston, among others. Those who have seen the two prototypes have been variously amazed, delighted, surprised and awestruck. Jeff Bezos is reported to have snorted uncontrollably (his laugh sounds like a pig snorting).

Kamen, who was just awarded the National Medal of Technology (the highest such award in the US) has been called "a combination of Henry Ford and Thomas Edison". John Doerr, of Kleiner Perkins Caulfield and Byers, the noted VC who funded the launch of companies like Sun, Lotus, Compaq and Netscape, says that he had been sure that he wouldn't see the development of anything in his lifetime as important as the World Wide Web - until he saw IT. Another investor, Credit Suisse First Boston, expects Kamen's invention to make more money in its first year than any start-up in history, predicting Kamen will be worth more in five years than Bill Gates. Jobs told Kamen that IT would be as significant as the PC (high praise indeed from Jobs, who feels that he originated the PC).

The ''core technology and its implementations'' will, according to Kamen, ''have a big, broad impact not only on social institutions but some billion-dollar old-line companies.'' IT will ''profoundly affect our environment and the way people live worldwide. It will be an alternative to products that are dirty, expensive, sometimes dangerous and often frustrating, especially for people in the cities.''

What has Kamen built? Few people know - but it is clearly not a hoax. Whatever it is, we will probably not find out until 2002, which is when Kamen says he'll unveil it. In the meantime, most people are simply speculating - it is perhaps a self-propelled, non-polluting scooter that will do away with energy, parking and pollution problems all in one swoop, built using technology borrowed from Kamen's previous invention, the iBot chair.

Click Read the ZDNET story and speculation about IT

Click Here is the Bio of inventor Dean Kamen

Click Read about Kamen's iBOT wheelchair

If you have any ideas about what IT might be, do tell.....

eNews January 27, 2001

What is Kamen's IT??

In the last eNews, we discussed Dean Kamen's mysterious new invention that has attracted significant venture financing and attention in the press. It turned out that the San Diego Union, my local newspaper, carried a feature on IT the same day, as did many other magazines and TV programs. So, I received a flurry of speculation. So, who is Dean Kamen? And what is IT?

Someone said : "It is difficult to tell the difference between a saint and a flake". Dean Kamen got mostly positive, but some negative, comments.

Ray Zack [] e-said :

    "This is entirely consistent with Kamen's "MO", One of his last inventions was based on a highly disguised version of Boyle's Law, which he promoted as a whole new concept. The latest Patent appears to be based on Stirlings combustion engine, patented in 1816!"

Bob Nickels [] e-moted :

    "I have the highest respect for Dean Kamen, not only as a technologist, but as a person of passion who is driven to accomplish things that most of us just talk about. I think he is a very smart guy, who surrounds himself with folks who are even smarter, but it's the passionate pursuit of a fundamental change in our society's approach to science and technology that impresses me the most. His pursuit of these overarching goals probably accounts for why some (who would pursue even more monetary success instead) might call him a flake. I doubt he'd be up for sainthood either, but if he is truly able to change how our culture views science and technology, then he'll certainly earn a place in history - with or without a newfangled motor-scooter!"

So, what is IT ?? The prevailing opinion is that IT stands for Individual Transporter and IT may be the device described in Kamen's patent application published in December 2000, which includes a picture of the product.

Click Kamen's Latest Patent

Alex Pavloff, Software Engineer, Eason Technology [] e-reported :

    "I know what IT is, Jim."

And Alex sent this URL link to a webpage that shows an excellent picture of IT, actually operating!

Click Animated Picture of operating IT

eNews August 10, 2001

Update : Dean Kamen's 'IT' (or, Ginger)

You might remember the introduction of Dean Kamen's 'IT' or Ginger (eNews January 17 & 27, 2001) - a mysterious new invention that had attracted significant venture financing and attention in the press. A half-year later, several people have asked : Where is Kamen's IT now? Does Ginger have a name? What is IT? Can I see a picture?

Well, it seems that IT (or Ginger) is still a mystery. Passionate interest in Kamen's forthcoming project, thought by some to be "a new transportation device so revolutionary that it will force urban planners to redesign cities in its wake", has made him one of the most watched scientists on the planet.

At the other extreme, there are those who balk at the outrageous claims ("personal transportation vehicle destined to change the world"; "entire cities will require re-thinking to accommodate the power of this monumental breakthrough"; "the invention without comparison since man learned to use tools") and they think that Kamen is just a modern day "Robin Hood", taking from the rich and giving to the poor (Kamen does a lot of work with kids). At best, they suggest that he is simply getting funding from fat corporations and naive investors, to keep himself in helicopters, yachts or whatever.

The vast audience of the Internet loves sleuthing, so if you're intrigued, you might like to review all the discussions and guesswork. A lot of websites have mushroomed up over the past year. Some have pictures (spoofs) of IT, and you can even find movies of IT operating!

If you DO discover what IT is, please let me know!

Click Project Ginger Home Page

Click Movie of Ginger in operation

Click Kamen stays mum, urges responsibility

Kamen's iBOT - revolutionary (but NOT 'IT')

Kamen's iBOT has made good progress - an all-terrain wheelchair that can climb stairs, cross sand, and effortlessly balance on two wheels. Johnson & Johnson has invested $50 million with Kamen in developing the "INDEPENDENCE(tm) iBOT(tm) Mobility System" - the first product being developed at Independence Technology, a J&J subsidiary. It is described as a revolutionary new mobility device that is designed to give disabled people maximum autonomy. iBOT is now in FDA trials and availability "by prescription" is projected for 2001, at less than $25,000.

Bob Metcalfe, the father of Ethernet, founder of 3Com and now an in-demand author, pundit and conference host, says: "It's something you don't believe until you see it. It looks like a sleek wheelchair, with two pairs of midsize wheels on a swivel, with a joystick. If you approach a curb or stairs, the wheels automatically swivel up the curb or swivel repeatedly up the stairs. If you were in a supermarket, hitting the IBOT's "stand" button would swivel you up onto two wheels to reach the top shelf. What must it be like for people who have lost their legs to again face the world standing up?

In shoving matches, IBOTs win. They keep their balance better than humans do by using gyroscopes and microprocessors. NBC's John Hockenberry (himself confined to a wheel-chair) threw a 25-pound bag to Kamen, who was sitting in an IBOT, balancing on two wheels. The IBOT detected the bag's heavy arrival and instantly regained balance by spinning its wheels. Only a replay shows the wheels making their moves. Kamen in his 200-pound IBOT easily beats a triathlete up a 3,000-foot-long 10-percent grade.

Click Johnson & Johnson - Independence Technology website

Click Bob Metcalfe's comments

Click MSNBC Story (with photo)

Click Updates and Photos on iBOT

Click Good, balanced summary about Dean Kamen

Stay tuned....

Return to Hot-Technology Index Return to Hot-tech Index

Return to Homepage Return to HomePage

If you have ideas or suggestions to improve this site, contact:
Copyright 2000 : Jim Pinto, San Diego, CA, USA