March 6, 2001 11:25 AM PST

Taking the wraps off 'Ginger'

"Ginger," the mysterious scooter-like device that has been touted as changing the world, is apparently environmentally friendly as well.

An article in the March 20 issue of Inside magazine claims that Ginger is indeed a two-wheeled scooter-like device and further asserts that it will run nearly emission-free using a hydrogen-based engine. In theory, the engine could power a range of devices.

Also known as "IT," Ginger has been the subject of the most tech-industry buzz since the days before Transmeta announced its power-saving chip to compete with Intel.

Reports of Ginger first cropped up in January after Inside.com, the Web site that spawned the magazine, detailed praise reportedly heaped on the product from tech giants such as Amazon.com CEO Jeff Bezos and Apple Computer CEO Steve Jobs in a book proposal from Steve Kemper with Harvard Business Press.

Amazon even created a page on its Web site to eventually sell the device, although the online retailer cautions it doesn't really know what IT is or whether IT will be available

A patent application filed with the World Intellectual Property Organization's International Bureau on Dec. 14, 2000, lists Manchester, N.H.-based DEKA Research and Development as the applicant. Inventor Dean Kamen has been creating products for DEKA for nearly 20 years. The application lists Kamen as the inventor of the unnamed product.

The application includes drawings of various devices, such as a unit similar to the electric scooters now popular with urban workers, a type of one-wheeled skateboard, and several other single-wheeled, foot-mounted oddities.

Man on skateboard According to the upcoming Inside article, Kamen has created a new company called ACROS, "whose goal is to create a product line that features 'motorized, self-propelled, wheeled personal mobility aids, namely wheel chairs, scooters, carts and chariots.'" ACROS has begun building a factory in New Hampshire, the magazine reports.

Kamen is also said to be planning later versions of the scooter that would include his patented version of the Stirling engine, an almost perpetual motion machine.

DEKA and Kamen have had little to say amid all the speculation, initially saying in a statement that the product would have a 10-minute assembly time, a price tag of less than $2,000 and a debut date of 2002.

However, Kamen later released a statement that said the leaked book proposal "quoted several prominent technology leaders out of context, without their doubts, risks and maybes included. This, together with spirited speculation about the unknown, has led to expectations that are beyond whimsical."

Kamen was not immediately available for comment on the latest report, which Inside says was prepared without any cooperation from Kamen.

 

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