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MORE GINGER DETAILS MAY BE COMING
By Michael Kanellos
Thursday, November 29, 2001
More details on Ginger, the alleged scooter at the center of controversy and
wild speculation for close to a year, may emerge next week amid a flurry of
patent applications from its inventor.
"Good Morning America" anchor Diane Sawyer said earlier this week that the
show will reveal what Ginger--also known as IT--is next week on the show.
Judging from Sawyer's comments, Ginger watchers expect the segment to air
Monday. ABC, the network that hosts the show, is running a
Meanwhile, Dean Kamen, the inventor of the device, has filed for at least
four patents in the past three months with the U.S. Patent and Trademark
Office. The patents revolve primarily around methods for making a "personal
mobility vehicle" that could carry people up stairs or over other irregular
Ginger is the brainchild of Kamen, who won the 2000 National Medal for
Technology, and the New Hampshire-based company he founded called DEKA
Research and Development.
DEKA declined to comment on the "Good Morning America" segment or the
Details about Ginger have been scarce ever since rumors about the device
began grabbing public attention nearly a year ago.
A patent application filed with the World Intellectual Property
Organization's (WIPO) international bureau on Dec. 14, 2000, has fueled
speculation that Ginger is a motorized, scooter-like device. Other details
revealed by Kamen have been that the device takes just 10 minutes to
assemble, has a price tag of less than $2,000, and will debut in 2002.
In the latest twist, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office posted on Oct. 25
one of Kamen's patent applications for "personalized mobility vehicles" that
would carry a person in a standing position, as well as cargo, over uneven
Another patent application from Kamen posted the same day seeks protection
over a "method for controlling the fuel-air ratio of a burner of an external
Yet another U.S. application posted Sept. 20 discusses a mobility device
that can climb stairs. In the same month, another patent application from
Kamen for safety devices for a personal vehicle was posted.
Whether the applications have anything to do with Ginger, however, is
anyone's guess. The patent application activity also could be to more fully
protect DEKA's full legal rights. And the WIPO and the U.S. applications
overlap. A WIPO patent protects owners in most European countries, while a
U.S. patent protects against infringement in the United States. Typically,
inventors will also file similar applications in Asia, said Richard Belgard,
a patent consultant.
Apple Computer CEO Steve Jobs and Amazon.com CEO Jeff Bezos have seen the
device, with Jobs going so far as to say it could prompt builders to
construct cities around it.
Kamen himself has been coy. In March, reporters crammed into a keynote
speech he delivered at the Association for Computing Machinery's Beyond
Cyberspace conference in San Jose, Calif. Kamen briefly mentioned Ginger but
spent most of his time talking about the unintended consequences of rapid
technological change. In a tip to showmanship, he rode onto the stage in his
invention called the iBot Transporter, a six-wheeled robotic "mobility
system" for people with disabilities.
"We have a promising project, but nothing of the earth-shattering nature
that people are conjuring up," Kamen said at the conference.
Theories about the device abound. Some believe it will have more than two
wheels, while others debate whether it will contain a Stirling engine, which
is an almost-perpetual motion machine. DEKA reserved the URL
mystirlingscooter.com in February 2001, while another Kamen-related company
called Arcos registered the URL flywheels.com.
DEKA's research largely focuses on inventions for the medical field. The
company designed the Home Choice, a relatively portable, peritoneal dialysis
machine marketed by Baxter, as well as balloon stents for unblocking
arteries that are marketed by Johnson & Johnson. Some believe that Ginger
will be used in the medical field, but Kamen has said it won't necessarily
be a medical device.
Chat rooms dedicated to the device are currently divided over what the "Good
Morning America" segment may reveal. Some assert that official details about
Ginger will emerge. Others speculate that a person who broke a nondisclosure
agreement will appear on the show.
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