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What is 'IT'? 554

Posted by jamie
from the IT's-funny-laugh dept.
StoryMan and a lot of other people found this interesting: "Okay, here's a weird one. This is the first I've heard of it. A long article on MSNBC describes this new 'thing' called 'IT'. Apparently it can be assembled from a bunch of parts. Jobs loves it. Bezos loves it. But what is it? Anyone have any ideas? Is this for real?" I think it's an A-driven experimental swibble.

From "Service Call," a short story by Philip K. Dick:

The young man flushed, swallowed noisily, tried to grin, and then hurried on huskily, "Sir, I'm the repairman you asked for; I'm here to fix your swibble."

The facetious retort that came to Courtland's mind was one that later on he wished he had used. "Maybe," he wished he had said, "I don't want my swibble fixed. Maybe I like my swibble the way it is." But he didn't say that. Instead, he blinked, pulled the door in slightly, and said, "My what?"

"Yes, sir," the young man persisted. "The record of your swibble installation came to us as a matter of course. Usually we make an automatic adjustment inquiry, but your call preceded that -- so I'm here with complete service equipment. Now, as to the nature of your particular complaint..." Furiously, the young man pawed through the sheaf of papers on his clipboard. "Well, there's no point in looking for that; you can tell me orally. As you probably know, sir, we're not officially part of the vending corporation ... we have what is called an insurance-type coverage that comes into existence automatically, when your purchase is made. Of course, you can cancel the arrangement with us." Feebly, he tried a joke. "I have heard there're a couple of competitors in the service business."

Stern morality replaced humor. Pulling his lank body upright, he finished, "But let me say that we've been in the swibble repair business ever since old R.J. Wright introduced the first A-driven experimental model."

For a time, Courtland said nothing. Phantasmagoria swirled through his head: random quasi-technological thoughts, reflex evaluations and notations of no importance. So swibbles broke down, did they? Big-time business operations ... send out a repairman as soon as the deal is closed. Monopoly tactics ... squeeze out the competition before they have a chance. Kickback to the parent company, probably. Interwoven books.

[...]

A swibble. What the hell was a swibble? And he was on the in, industrially speaking. He read U.S. News, the Wall Street Journal. If there was a swibble he would have heard about it -- unless a swibble was some pip-squeak gadget for the home. Maybe that was it.

You can find this story in The Collected Stories of Philip K. Dick, Volume 4: The Minority Report.

Thoughtfully, he added, "In fact I'd say the real war was a war over swibbles. I mean, it was the last war. It was the war between the people who wanted swibbles and those who didn't." Complacently, he finished, "Needless to say, we won."

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What is 'IT'?

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  • Didn't anyone else think: he took two small boxes in. he made people very exited. he does transport stuff. it's clean, and safe (hence can't move too fast) so maybe he walk from one box to the next without spending time in-between. A transporter so to speak. But then even I think I'm insane.
  • Well, it's nice to know that the upcoming Star Wars movie won't be the only huge letdown next year... ;)




  • Due to repeated reports on /., I've been thinking about those personal hover vehicles dreamed about in the fifties, still under failing development.

    They have a bunch of severe problems:

    1. control

    I suppose it's a lot harder to fly a vehicle than to drive one. Especially if it's light, and there's going to be hundreds of them flying around above and between city buildings. More so in bad weather.

    It would be quite a system that could automatically overcome this.

    2. Power

    It takes extreme amounts of energy to fight the gravitation. This could be solved by slider-like, foldable wings. Take-off and landing should be vertical to reduce ground area requirements. Once airborne, you should be able to slide.with the wings opened and engine(s) turned horizontal.
  • by Golias (176380) on Wednesday January 10, 2001 @11:41AM (#517615)
    A lot of theories have been offered, and one of them could be right, but allow me to put on my cynic hat and explain why most of these ideas are either wrong, or simply won't work out:

    Personal Transport (hover/copter/sterling-driven/bike/scooter/wheelch air/backpack) has no chance of generating $60 billion in 5 years at $2k a pop. In order for it to make that much money, pretty much everybody in America needs to buy one. In order for that to happen, it needs to be a 100% replacement for a car, because most people will not spend two grand on a second vehicle in addition to their car.

    Cars protect from the elements (rain, cold, etc); they provide some protection in accidents (metal frame, air bags, seat belts, etc); they allow you to carry passengers and luggage; they can travel at high speeds (as in >30 MPH) over long distances; they are hard for a non-expert theif to steal.

    Given that criteria, a personal craft that can not take you from L.A. to Vegas at 70 MPH, be driven comfortably through Detroit in January, and crash into a garbage truck head-on without killing you... will never replace cars, and therefore will be nothing more than a toy for yuppies and the "Earth First" crowd.

    Teleporter - The problem I have always had with sci-fi transport devices is that they don't actually move you. They disintigrate you and then replicate you. Most of us would rather not be destroyed and simultaniously replaced with a copy that has our memories. Also, it can't be done with current knowledge.

    Power generation - I could see that becoming a popular option. A lot of home-owners, including me, would have gone solar a long time ago if it was cheap enough. However, nobody can make $60 billion in the home appliance market. The margins are simply not high enough, and if they were you would face stiff competition within a year or two. Also, most urban dwellers live in apartments, where power and utility costs are usually hidden in their rent payments.

    Waste Disposal / Water Delivery / etc. faces the same problems as the generator theories.

    It seems to me that for "IT" to live up to the hype, it must be something that none of us have thought of, or ever thought we would want. After all, nobody thought we would want to do our computing with a mouse-driven GUI before the XEROX engineers thought of it, and nobody thought they could sell one until Jobs visited PARC labs... but now it is hard to imagine selling any sort of client software without it.

  • If you thought that the auto companies would feel threatened by this, and would want to suppress it, then no, you would not go to them. Sounds a little conspiracy theorist, but all the same I think it's a fair point.

    If some CalTech physicist came up with viable fuel cells, do you think Exxon would finance his research & marketing? If someone from CERN produced a useful & net-positive fusion reactor, do you think the various power companies, with their existing plants and related revenues, would be willing to change course and throw their resources behind this research.

    Or here's one -- if some kids came up with a robust, scalable, powerful operating system in their spare time, do you think Microsoft would adopt it, or would they do everything they can to neutralize it?

    Sad to say, I think this happens all the time...



  • Who is John Galt?

    (of course, I finally get to read this long after the discussion has died down. :( )
  • It's not revolutionary enough to impress Bezos and Jobs.

    It doesn't have GPS
    It doesn't have the ability to communicate with other TurboScooters
    It doesn't have a palm device for information gathering and realy
    It does have a tracking module, to allow for caravans and auto navigation
    It doesn't have the physical hooks to allow daisychaining of scooters together.

    Geek dating! [bunnyhop.com]
  • by soulsteal (104635) <soulsteal @ 3 l 337.org> on Tuesday January 09, 2001 @06:17PM (#517638) Homepage

    It's It
    What is it
    It's it
    What is it

  • Yeah, that Steve Jobs is such an idiot, I mean, his company just released that stupid consumer CDRW/DVDRW drive that writes so fast that a 1 hour movie only takes 2 hours to burn....
    What a bunch of morons there are over at Apple... yeah...

    Kintanon
  • You're hosed, of course. What else? At low altitudes there isn't much time to operate a parachute. I think these types of craft are operating in an area (0-1000 feet) where there really is no good safety mechanism in the event of a mechanical failure. Best you can do is cut down on the bulk and weight so it's not much different than a unencumbered person falling out of the sky.

    On the bright side, turbine jets have a reliability rate an order of magnitude better than reciprocating internal combustion engines- there isn't much _to_ fail. Flameouts can happen if you slam on high power suddenly resulting in a turbine stall- remember this design would be optimised for a lower rate of speed in the first place, I think it would be not that hard to eliminate the risk of a turbine stall within such a limited operating range. Unlike a 747 turbine, a portable heli turbine would not _have_ to go from 0 to 700 mph, and would not have to have the capability to dump that much fuel in that you could stall the turbines (early 747 engines suffered from a behavior that when you pushed the throttles forward firmly, you got a huge bang and a turbine stall- they had to bring up the engine speed more smoothly with throttle interlocks to avoid this, because of the huge difference in fuel flow and thrust between low and high power)

    I think the idea with IT (sticking with my original guess on its identity) must be, "Limit maneuverability to 'stable and gentle' and increase the engine's reliability until it's waaaay beyond the average reliability of, say, car engines/TIRES/brakes/steering linkages etc".

    It'd be a hard _sell_, but the actual engineering problem is nowhere near as hard. It's not that much of a problem to produce a jet turbine that is orders of magnitude more reliable than, say, a car. The very light duty requirements and materials such as titanium would only make this easier.

  • The reason that cars congest cities is not that everyone lives in the city and drives, it's that everyone lives a half-hour commute from the city and drives in. And as the towns a half-hour out become crowded and overbuilt and old, we build bigger, badder freeways to establish new towns farther away that are still a half-hour commute away, resulting in more congestion, more buildup, more freeways, more miles driven, etc.

    So, as long as this trend continues, it will all be about speed. You need to keep going faster to keep moving farther away from the problems (crime, pollution, poor schools, lower property values) of those living closer in. It's no accident (ahem) that the 55 mph limit was lifted in the US, as people try to live farther away from central cities, but still want to get there in the same time. Same thing for road rage, "tier 1 suburbs" decaying, sprawl, etc.

    So, until something reverses this trend, say, light industries built in autonomous small towns, accompanied by small-scale power plants and made possible by information technology and shattered corporations (all of this is starting to happen, BTW), a clean personal transport won't matter.

    Unless, of course, you're suggesting these things can "dock" in bigger vehicles that go 100mph (trains?), and/or have rollbars and harnesses.

    All that said, I'd love to own one, if it's what you describe, which it pretty much has to be.
  • The invention has a fun element to it, because once a Ginger was turned on, Bezos started laughing his "loud, honking laugh".

    Not sure how to read this. How could a scooter/car/whatever be fun? Perhaps the mention of a hover device awhile ago (they've been available for years) could look 'fun' when activated.

    The invention could be fun if it suddenly stood up when turned on! Imagine that it is a one or two wheeled scooter that was laying down on the floor and when turned on the handlebars or whatever suddenly rised up as the wheels spinned to stabilize the darned thing!?!

  • A Johnson and Johnson web site that is not completed yet.

    http://www.indetech.com/ [indetech.com]

    The site is called "Independence Technology" or could that be short for IT? Remember that Johnson and Johnson is going to be selling the iBot for DEKA.

  • www.theitquestion.com [theitquestion.com].

    Looks like someone cracked.

    "Dean's two-wheel balancing device is really cool," said Dr. Wise Young, director of the W. M. Keck Center for Collaborative Neuroscience at Rutgers University. "It zooms around like lightning just by standing on it and leaning forward or backwards. The battery is the platform. Using it is totally intuitive. It will require reorganization of sidewalks because there will be people zooming all over cities with it."

    Read the complete article. [wired.com]

  • But, if you read the article carefully, you'll see it mentions the Stirling engine, *then* talks about a hush-hush project that Kleiner Perkins is investing in. It implies that this is not, in fact, IT.

    Damn, I need to track down my college friend who went off to work for Dean doing the US FIRST thing. Maybe he knows...

  • My bet says it's some sort of super-clean, super-cool transportation. And since it was "turned on", it has something electrical.

    I think you're right. At least on the transportation part. Hopefully it does turn out to be super clean and super cool.

    But what kind of transportation is it? Assembled from parts carried in two large duffel bags? Sounds like personal transportation rather than a large multiperson vehicle. Is it some sort of kickass, Internet-guided scooter?

    And what does IT stand for? I---- Transport?



    --
  • Yep, it fits on so many levels:

    1) Is it legal? This would have to be treated as an personal vehicle, but not necessary a aircraft, so you would need additional laws for "driver's" licenses, vehicle registration, speed/ceiling limits, safe flying zones, and so on and so on.
    2) Retrofitting cities. You would need a completely different infrastructure to support these; hangars/landing pads, traffic paths or throughways marked. This is assuming, of course, that this vehicle is gas-powered; we might need a whole new power/fuel distribution system to keep this things of the air.
    3) Dirty, noisy, etc. As one other poster said, "that's either cars or dogs". And we already have electronic dogs.
    4) Mega corp interference. Personal helicopters are going to make this guy RICH because I want one!
    5) Building them with a screwdriver/hex wrench/carry it in. It this guy can build a wheelchair that climbs stairs (which would need a very high power-to-mass ratio to haul someone's ass up stairs), then I bet he could apply that kind of power-to-mass ratio to a personal chopper. Building it simply and quickly means it probably is a sturdy pre-fab; not unlike the new scooters/mopeds that are/were the rage.

  • by HoldenCaulfield (25660) on Tuesday January 09, 2001 @08:02PM (#517729) Journal
    http://www.delphion.com/details?pn=US05971091__

    That patent would seem to suggest you're on the right track . . .
  • Gee, the story seems much more like it's derived straight from Brazil [imdb.com].

  • If this is the case, then short all of your hypothetical stock in IT.

    The technology is there to make personal helicopter-like hovercrafts for about the same price as cars. It'll never happen, and any pilot will tell you why. Adding a third dimension adds about a factor of 100x in complexity. Most people will never be willing to learn to fly, especially for their daily commute.

    I also don't think that an incredibly smart autopilot (which I also think is possible) would solve problems: You can't build highways as easily in the sky, even if you're being controlled by a computer.

    Still, it's probably the most likely suggestion I've heard so far. Interesting...
  • I was thinking I remembered the name "Ginger" when the comment above reminded me of the Gary Larson "Far Side" cartoon, in which a human is scolding a dog about going into the trash, and the dog only hears "Ginger...blah...blah..blah."

    One interesting aside is that a cursory web search reveals that this cartoon has launched an entire genre of research, ranging from papers on Far Side semiotics at:
    http://www.mtsu.edu/~dlavery/farside.htm
    to a class project on writing a finite state machine to translate text into Ginger-speak.

    Failing that, a personal hovercraft wouldn't be all that far away from the FAA's current SATS (Small Aircraft Transportation System) effort, which reads a lot like "An aircraft in every garage." Here's a paper on training issues associated with this system, which is supposed to fly in lower minimums than present IFR traffic, with pilots who know less about flying than at present. If that doesn't scare you, check out the rest of the proposed features:

    http://www.academy.jccbi.gov/iats/session5b3.htm
  • Deka Research [dekaresearch.com] home of Kamen's research company appears to be slashdotted. The Google-rama cached copy tells us little (here [google.com])

    Maybe we'll all get lucky and IT wont be bullshit and marketing - maybe it will be something wonderfull - something beyond consumer crap and markatroid drivel... God knows we need something to clear out the underbrush... these are some very serious statments (vauge but lofty).. my only worry is that Jeff "One Click IP $WHORE$" Bezos has anything to do with IT

    Maybe IT is a patent for air -- and the 'design changes' required to accomidate IT simply have to do with metering all of our useage ;(

  • >have a big, broad impact not only on social >institutions

    Like rush-hour traffic, teenage mating rituals, and car worship?

    >but some billion-dollar old-line companies.

    Like Ford, GMC, Dodge, Honda, Volkswagen?

    > profoundly affect our environment and the way
    > people live worldwide.

    NO MORE ROADS! And if we need to go overland, we can just use that off-road wheelchair! Oh, we are assuming this vehicle is cleaner than a car.

  • by sparcv9 (253182) on Tuesday January 09, 2001 @08:08PM (#517746)
    This sounds so transportation-oriented. Here is a list of every patent granted to Dean Kamen since 1995 that involves transportation of some sort:
    Hope this helps someone figure it out...
  • by 2nd Post! (213333) <gundbear&pacbell,net> on Tuesday January 09, 2001 @07:13PM (#517748) Homepage
    Fits inside a duffel bag and a couple cardboard boxes (I'd guess moving boxes)

    Can be assembled quickly with hex wrenches and a screwdriver...

    That makes me think of a pair of rollerblades, or one of those scooter thingies!

    2 models, the metro and the pro; Just those naming conventions make me think of rollerblades or scooters, too, with the metro being an economical version, and the pro with additional bells and whistles...

    And the invention 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."

    It sounds like he's describing something both economical and ecological, as an alternative to... cars? Buses?

    I'm thinking... electrical scooters or rollerblades, that can be chained together, like links!

    Say, something like a shopping cart sized device, allowing one to sit or stand, with safe and clean electrical power, allowing one to move at, say, 10mph for 25 or 35 miles?

    Able to link and chain, to create caravans...

    It'll confound people because it isn't quite a car, nor a sidewalk friendly device...

    And it'll be definitely fun!

    Also, it could have an additional contact strip, to draw power, inductively, from embedded power strips!


    Geek dating! [bunnyhop.com]
  • Jobs told Kamen the invention would be as significant as the PC, the proposal says.

    If Steve Jobs says this, he just might be on to something. But how many things have been trumpeted as "PC replacements" in the past, oh, ten years?


    Jobs didn't say it would replace PC's, he said it is "as significant as the PC." Big diff...
  • Dean Kamen "assembled two Gingers -- or ITs -- in 10 minutes, using a screwdriver and hex wrenches from components that fit into a couple of large duffel bags and some cardboard boxes." - could it possibly be some sort of nitrogen-powered vehicle [yourneighborhoodnews.com]? I found at least 20 patents from Deka Products Limited Partnership (Dean Kamen et al.). Supposedly he holds more than 100 US patents. Some of the more interesting ones include:

    • 5,701,965 Human Transporter
    • 5,971,091 Transportation vehicles and methods
    • 6,155,824 Apparatus and method for cleaning teeth
    • 6,062,600 Anti-tipping mechanism
    • 5,522,568 Position stick with automatic trim control

    We can only guess at what this genius is cooking up - but, he is definately a man who could do it. We'll just have to wait and see what IT is. Maybe we could get the Chinese to help us out a bit? I wonder if DEKA is hiring engineers?

  • That's interesting. From Dictionary.com I get:

    IT \It\, pron. [OE. it, hit, AS. hit; cf. D. het. [root]181. See He.] The neuter pronoun of the third person, corresponding to the masculine pronoun he and the feminine she, and having the same plural (they, their or theirs, them).

    I like mine better.

  • Here's a bio page [usfirst.org] for Mr. Kamen. He's got a few patents over on the IBM Patent Server [delphion.com], starting in 1975 and going to the present, mainly for medical devices. You can find more stuff by running a quick Google search [google.com].
  • Yeah, I read up on his wheelchair; it makes me think it'll be an electrical scooter/cart.

    What would be neat is if it had GPS and maps, maybe via built in Palm type device.

    Also, the ability to daisy chain and form caravans (and thus the statement about planning cities around it, campuses, etc)

    Especially if it could track painted guides, as well as allow for clean electrical power, as well as communicating with each other, and maybe even running off an inductive power source!

    Geek dating! [bunnyhop.com]
  • The invention itself is as interesting as the inventor. Kamen -- "a true eccentric, cantankerous and opinionated, a great character," according to the proposal -- dropped out of college in his 20s, then invented the first drug infusion pump; he later created the first portable insulin pump and dialysis machine.

    Of course he knows what he's doing he dropped out of college.
  • Just me playing join the dots, and finding I don't really have enough dots to play with...

    • Revolutionary (Jeff Bezos): (ie it goes round and round.)
    • John Doerr is by no means stupid, but he does fund lots of stuff. He helped Netscape startup, for example...
    • 'an alternative to products that "are dirty, expensive, sometimes dangerous and often frustrating, especially for people in the cities"'
    I'm currently theorising that this is transportationally related: In my mind at least this fits all these criteria - and I can certainly sketch in vague conceptual forms technologies that could influence city design.

    Heinlein Shipstones anyone?

  • Then, when you have found the shrubbery, you must cut down the mightiest tree in the forest ... wiiiith ... a herring! (holds up fish)

    Yes! A herring!

    We shall do no such thing.

    Oh, please?

    Cut down a tree with a herring? IT can't be done! (The Knights of Ni recoil in horror)

    Oh! Don't say that word.

    What word?

    I cannot tell! Suffice to say is one of the words the Knights of Ni cannot hear!

    How can we not say the word, if you don't tell us what IT is?

    (cringing) AGHHH! You said IT again!

    What, "is"?

    No ... not "is"! Wouldn't get very far in life not saying "is."

    My liege, it's Sir Robin!

    ... packing it in and packing it up and sneaking away and buggering off and chickening out and pissing off home yes bravely he is throwing in the sponge ...

    Sir Robin!

    My liege! IT's good to see you ...

    Now he's said the word!

    Surely you've not given up your quest for the Holy Grail?

    He is sneaking away and buggering off ...

    Shut up! ... No no no! Far from IT!

    He said the word again!

    I was looking for IT ...

    AAAGHH!!!

    Ah, here, here in this forest.

    No, IT is far from this place.

    Oh!! Stop saying the word! The word! The word we cannot hear!

    Oh, stop IT!

    You said IT again!

    Hey, I said IT! I said IT! Oh! I said IT again! And there again! That's three ITs! Ohhh!

  • by swimmar132 (302744) <joe@pi n k p u c k e r . n et> on Tuesday January 09, 2001 @07:20PM (#517781) Homepage
    Hey, doesn't anyone remember a Wired article a couple months ago about this guy? It talked about that robotic wheelchair thing, and then went into great detail about his work on a personal hovercraft. It supposed to look like and operate like a UFO.

    1,000 bucks says that's what it is. And the information in the article seems to support this theory, like having the zoning laws changed, it being kind of humorous, etc.

  • If that is what it is then there are photos here:
    http://www.nhmagazine.com/99editions/99october/min ovemat/ [nhmagazine.com]
    I think it is very cool too- but, the MSNBC article is hyping it up *way* too much. They make it sound like your own personal hovercraft or something! * Sheesh *
  • Yeah, I read up on his wheelchair; it makes me think it'll be an electrical scooter/cart.

    I doubt it... why would Bezos wonder if it will be legal to use it? My guess is a personal hovercraft type device...
  • Kamen designed a wheelchair. That term doesn't really do it justice. His device can go on flat surfaces, climb stairs, elevate the rider to normal standing height, and hold its own when someone tries to shove the rider off balance. It's pretty astounding. Kamen and his invention were covered in Wired recently.

    I wouldn't be surprised if Ginger is some variant of Kamen's wheelchair, designed to be fast, light and compact.

  • Argh! I just said IT!

    (I think IT's a new form of electric shrubbery. That's why cities and campuses will have to be redesigned. And that's why Bezos laughed when he turned it on. An electric shrubbery is a very silly thing!)
  • IT?

    Holy crap, I'm majoring in IT and no one knows what IT even is?

    I should REALLY have just gone into primary education. I could learn to make things out of popsicle sticks and learn to teach kindergarten math.

    IT. Bah.

  • The articles clearly indicate that it's a transportation device. The speculation is that the civil structures would have to be changed because currently everything is designed around cars : Roads, parking lots, etc. The mentions towards old economy forces obviously implicates the car manufacturers and the gigantic economic partners of those car companies.

    Jobs is quoted as saying: "...If enough people see the machine you won't have to convince them to architect cities around it. It'll just happen."

    Cities are currently entirely engineered around cars and the need to get those cars around. If it weren't for cars our social structure would be quite a bit different.

    Kemper says the invention will "sweep over the world and change lives, cities, and ways of thinking."

    Implication there is hovering, flying, etc. Sweeping over seems to be a hint of something that don't ride on the ground.

  • But think about the sheer logistics behind rocketing to more than $60 billion in corporate worth in only five years

    Easily theorised though: have an existing product with low cost of manufacture, and sell for a huge markup, just like Microsoft do.

    Especially if it's a device (rather than software) you could license it to others to manufacture and sell.....

  • By then, the electricity bill for riding to work will be more than a days pay, at least in California.
  • If IT is any of the following:

    Wireless Anything
    Bluetooth Anything
    Embedded Anything
    eCommerce Anything
    XML Anything
    Convergence Anything

    I will personally start the greatest jihad this planet has ever seen - enough is enough with the markatroid stunts.

  • The article reminded me of the episode where it was Mrs. Slocombe's birthday and the rest of the staff all chipped in for a gift. After giving it to her they passed the box around making cryptic comments about it, like "I've always wanted one of those!" "I've never actually seen one before!" "Oh, I've had one for years. I don't know what I'd do without it."

    They never do tell you what it is.

  • I thought this article was about the clown (Stephen King's novel/movie?) :).
  • The by-line for the MSNBC one says:

    By PJ Mark
    INSIDE.COM
  • by donutello (88309) on Tuesday January 09, 2001 @08:34PM (#517815) Homepage
    I heard someone else say IT stood for "Individual Transportation". If you invented a transportation device, why would you be asking Jeff Bezos and Steve Jobs to comment on it? Wouldn't you go to one of the auto manufacturers first?
  • My bet says it's some sort of super-clean, super-cool transportation. And since it was "turned on", it has something electrical.

    Ever seen The Rocketeer [imdb.com]?

    All the hints are there in the article. It is obviously a personal transportation device that:

    replaces cars

    is fun & appealing

    will require/allow city infrastructure changes

    is easy to use

    would require new laws/regulations

    make existing competitors (probably automakers) panic

    The article's hints are just to blatant too be anything but some sort of personal autonomous flight pack.

    Of course IT could just be the latest version of VIP [imdb.com]

    IV

  • My bet says it's some sort of super-clean, super-cool transportation. And since it was "turned on", it has something electrical

    If you invented a super-cool transportation device, why would you be demo-ing it to Jeff Bezos and Steve Jobs?

  • I rollerblade; around a *lot* of places, rollerblades are banned, restricted, or prohibited.

    Hovercraft is just a little too... sci-fi for my tastes.

    Electric go-karts with GPS and auto-navigation and caravan-ing, seems a smarter and cooler idea, myself.

    Geek dating! [bunnyhop.com]
  • by MeepMeep (111932) on Tuesday January 09, 2001 @07:43PM (#517827)

    IT probably stands for Individual Transport.

    It will be an alternative to the car. Thus the reference to the 'billion dollar old line companies' and 'social institutions' - in America, and in many places around the world, the car is a powerful social symbol.

    The model named 'Metro' fits with a metropolitan-based transportation device.

    Kamen has most recently worked on the 'active' wheelchair, which 'transports' an 'individual'. It would be natural that his mind is still focused on 'individual transport'.

    Screwdrivers and hexwrenches indicate a mostly mechanical device, although I wouldn't preclude some pretty smart electronics. His active wheelchair can beat a human in a shoving match and stay balanced, no mean feat.

    Anyway, I would bet on IT being some adaptation of the active wheelchair technology. Some sort of powered scooter you strap to your legs? Motorized shoes? Power roller-blades?

  • by JoeShmoe (90109)
    Hmm. I think he's (she's?) got it.

    It seems to answer a lot of the questions raised in this thread [slashdot.org] about personal hovercrafts...which happens to be the most convincing hypothesis I've read.

    Bravo. If I only had a mod point.

    - JoeShmoe
  • by NetJunkie (56134) <<moc.liamg> <ta> <hsan.nosaj>> on Tuesday January 09, 2001 @06:20PM (#517834)
    Another article about it on Salon is here.

    http://www.salon.com/books/wire/2001/01/09/ginge r/ index.html
  • by FigBugDeux (257259) on Tuesday January 09, 2001 @06:20PM (#517835) Homepage
    Coke is it.
  • You _can_ buy a hoverboard. Unfortunately it's more like a ride-on Flymo than a lean mean street machine, but anyway...

    Grab.
  • You reckon? Look at the guys investing in it. On the one hand, we've got Jeff Bezos who wouldn't know a profit if it smacked him in the face (and that's bcos there's no profit at Amazon to smack anyone with - not even enough to tread on their toes ;-). And on the other hand we've got Steve Jobs, king of the "Marketing Campaign Without Substance" known as the iMac, a range of computers sold on their pretty colours rather than any inherent good features of the computer itself. Oh, and then there's the venture capitalist who's been plugging money blindly at dot-coms which haven't a hope of making money, but wasn't smart enough to realise that none of them would make money.

    Is it just me, or does anyone else think this trio aren't exactly the ppl to trust when it comes to finding good ideas?

    Grab.
  • by sconeu (64226) on Tuesday January 09, 2001 @06:22PM (#517848) Homepage Journal
    Don't most of us on Slashdot work in IT already?
  • Really, no joke.

    A mechanicaly operated (pedaled) sealed system personal dirigible, with a mechanical gas pump.

    Cost efficient, fun, difficult to regulate, cheap to mass produce once the design is right, and requiring serious changes to archetecture to take advantage of them.

    I'd buy one, wouldn't you?

    -- Crutcher --
    #include <disclaimer.h>
  • by Seenhere (90736) on Tuesday January 09, 2001 @06:22PM (#517850) Homepage
    Salon [salon.com] has a piece on this too.

    But if you do a Google search on "ginger dean kamen", you get nothing. Not even any wack rumors. Deja doesn't turn up anything either.

    So, it's got me curious, which is a pretty good PR trick if nothing else.

    --Seen

  • by SubtleNuance (184325) on Tuesday January 09, 2001 @07:44PM (#517851) Journal
    For those too lazy to see the above link [wirednews.com]: Page two [wirednews.com] says:

    He might run into problems with the Stirling engine, too. The development of a marketable Stirling device has eluded the brightest engineering minds since Robert Stirling, a Scottish minister, patented the first version in 1816. The basic principle of Stirling's external combustion engine is simple: A chamber is filled with a gas that expands as it is heated by a small heat source, such as a propane flame, and contracts when cooled. The process operates a piston and drives the engine. The advantage? Cheap, local fuels can be used to run the engines, and Kamen has adapted his model to produce electricity instead of mechanical power.

    But producing the thing is a more complex matter. While many have tried to use Stirlings to power drive shafts for vehicles, they have proved too expensive to manufacture on a mass scale, and they're not always efficient enough. One low tech problem is designing seals that guard against waste as the heat is transferred into a form that does useful work.

    Deka's version heats a chamber containing helium, under pressure, and Kamen says it can run on gasoline, propane, fuel oil, diesel, alcohol, or even solar power - with one-fifth the emissions of a gas stove. Deka's engineers think they'll succeed where others have failed because they've ironed out all the kinks. "We looked at the history of the Stirling - all the money and time and expertise poured into it - and identified a half-dozen key goofs that previous teams had made," says project leader Chris Langenfeld. "Seventy percent of it was a materials challenge. We had to track down the right composites to use as seals."

    Kamen hopes that his family of Stirlings, five years in development, will soon bring portable electricity to nations without a reliable power grid - or any grid at all. He envisions briefcase-sized Stirlings powering cell phones and cell towers, as well as purifying water. He aims to have them on the market in the next two years, and is currently working on the marketing issues - like how developing nations will be able to afford bulk purchases of the engines, which are projected to cost $1,500 apiece.


    I think our friend Ross C. Bracket may have what IT is... a stirling engine powered scooter(?)?

  • When Kamen was testing his Ibot wheelchair he took it from the bottom of a Paris Metro station to the restaurant level of the Eiffel Tower - up the stairs.

    The man is a genius.
  • by Packet (8034) on Tuesday January 09, 2001 @08:45PM (#517858)
    Going on the assumption that the name 'Ginger' is significant somehow, I did a Google search for the word Ginger and other words like 'transportation' and 'Mythology' and 'flight'.

    The most intriguing match I found was to the character 'Ginger' in Chicken Run.

    A quote from the review "<I>...partly thanks to Ginger, who believes that he'll be able to teach her and the rest of the chickens to fly</I>".

    Could this be an invention that will help us 'learn to fly'??
  • I think everyone is on the right track about this new technology being a form of transportation. Especially considering this guy's history.

    Remember, this invention is going to be drastic enough to change our entire notion of how cities should be organized. If it isn't transportation, then it's a new method for delivering utilities.

    There's many people saying that this is merely a new type of engine. Think about that for a minute, though. If it were merely a new engine, we could continue using cars (privately-owned, personalized transport) just as we do today -- no change required.

    I'm thinking that, somehow, IT is a new paradigm and not merely a new technology. Anything more than that, and I have no idea... but it's something for all of you to mull over.
  • Rumor has it that IT requires excessive ammounts of Dihydrogen Monoxide.

  • Unfortunately the link to the "vortex thruster" page went dead in the last couple of weeks, so you can't click through to the link that existed when I sent the following message about 12 days ago. You can, however, see an encached copy of it that I retrieved from Google [google.com] at this link [geocities.com].

    -----Original Message-----
    From: Jim Bowery [mailto:jabowery@ricochet.net]
    Sent: Saturday, December 30, 2000 3:57 PM
    To: Ray Calkins
    Subject: Bruce Calkins?

    Ray,

    I don't know if you are related to Bruce Calkins:
    http://www.moller.com/about/staff/#calkins

    but if you are, do you happen to know if the Moller people have checked out the stuff being done at the University of Houston with their "vortex thruster" approach to the Coanda effect?

    http://www.ifdt.uh.edu/vtc/vortexthruster/main.htm l

    "Our initial conservative estimates indicate that a thruster with a 1 sq. m. chamber area can generate 4 tons of thrust with 17 times less energy than a conventional jet."

  • Okay, IT will revolutionise society, require cities to be retro-fitted, may breach existing regulations, and the inventor is a helicopter nut.

    My guess? IT is a personal aviation device (eg. helicopter or jetpack) which is manportable, easy to use, safe, reliable and has a useful range.

    The car won't be obsolete overnight; we'll still use the car for cargo (shopping etc). But that'll be about it.

    --

  • Maybe it's one of those evil telescreens from George Orwell's chilling tale of '1984'. Given it's around 17 years overdue, it could happen. Furthermore, the MSNBC article says that "If enough people see the machine you won't have to convince them to architect cities around it. It'll just happen" . Also it states that it isn't a question of whether people are going to buy it, but a question of whether it will be legal. It makes you wonder...
  • (this is prolly going to look like flamebait, but i swear i wasn't trolling)

    if jobs and bezos love IT, then IT must be a method of selling at a loss and then making up for it with quantity!

    you too can have your very own DotCom (tm) to sell everything that you think everybody needs but is too lazy to buy it at a real store. here's a testimonial from Bob, started using IT to his advantage:

    "A couple months ago, I started using IT to sell groceries on the internet. I figured 'Why would anybody trust the people at their local mom n' pop store when they could send their credit cards to me?' So I was talking to IT Venture Capital Services, and their rep was great! They gave me $10,000,000 just for walking in the door! And then when I told him I had a business idea that involved the internet, He gave me another 10,000,000! IT is the best thing that ever happened to the economy!

    oh wait... tech stocks are down...

  • From the article:Why the secrecy? Kamen fears, as he states in a letter to Kemper that is included in the proposal, that "huge corporations" might catch wind of the invention and "use their massive resources to erect obstacles against us or, worse, simply appropriate the technology by assigning hundreds of engineers to catch up to us, and thousands of employees to produce it in their plants." What really strikes me strange about this quote from the article is his advisory board. Anyone recall 'Pirates of Silicon Valley' (or something like that) a historical fiction based upon all the IP thievery that was going on in the early days? Jobs stealing from Xerox, Gates from Jobs and Bezos from all of us, etc. If all those guys have a reputation as IP cronies, scavengers, jackyls and thieves would you trust them on your advisory board?Come on. Something is truly strange afoot here. The inclusion of Bezos and Jobs is akin to the wolves watching the chicken coop. The whole quote implies that Kamen is aware of this as a potential problem yet still he makes the assumption that these guys won't rob him blind the very second they have a chance. I dunno. Seems to me like the most brilliant minds often lack the common sense required to make it in the real world. I hope this doesn't bite him on the ass.

  • A wheeled vehicle, but with automatic
    self-balancing and self-braking functions. Also
    with a generic capability to latch on to other
    sources of mobility, including special (probably
    tracked) vehicles built for the purpose, or
    horizontal or vertical conveyor belts, possibly
    with a kind of slingshot action to push then
    release the vehicles at higher speeds, where they
    will remain stable due to electronic and
    gyroscopic controls.

    May have autonomous capability, so units could
    be public (like the experiment with bicycles in
    Amsterdam), and could be thus "borrowed" or
    perhaps rented when needed and then
    automatically would shunt themselves around
    the city in anticipation of predicted needs.

    They would initially be useful without
    infrastructure, but later as infrastructure
    (conveyor belts, or conveyor-bot moving vehicles
    onto which these personal vehicles could latch)
    became more widespread, these personal vehicles
    would become more useful. City governments
    would invest in huge fleets of them to
    alleviate traffic and pollution problems, but
    individuals would also buy them for personal use.
    (Metro versus Pro, although an individual could
    presumably purchase either).

    The wheels have to be fairly large (over 8",
    say) to allow smooth navigation over obstacles.
    The vehicle will also be able to jump when
    necessary, absorb bumps with an electronically
    controlled damping system, and may be able to
    hook together with other units to form a train.
    It may have a kind of micro radar to detect and
    quickly respond to obstacles such as curbs.

    With its low price, the Metro will not have
    the ability to recover energy during braking and
    downhill... well, maybe with a flywheel. But the
    Pro may have this ability.

    Note that Bezos et al did not necessarily see
    these things doing all their tricks. They did
    see at least one of them "turned on." It would
    be possible to demo vehicles such as this without
    having the full infrastruture in place: one unit
    could, in motion, catch up to and latch on to
    another unit, which could then demonstrate the
    slingshot action of transferring speed to the
    first unit. A key technology in all of this is
    the same kind of sensing and balancing that goes
    on in Kamen's wheelchair replacement, but applied
    in a different domain, the domain of coordinating
    and connecting two moving entities (vehicle and
    vehicle, or vehicle and conveyer belt).

    In a time of impending energy crunch (you ain't
    seen nothin yet) a more efficient transportation
    tool will really take off.

    I think this is it. You could build cities around
    it. Cities will be retrofitted for it. It will
    affect people in cities especially. It will sweep
    over the world.

    It won't replace cars. Weather will be an
    issue. But many cities in the world have way,
    way more motorcycles than we ever see in most
    of the cities most of us live in, and this will
    be a cleaner, cheaper, replacement for those, in
    those places where weather doesn't make it
    impractical. It will be interesting to see if
    it can balance and travel on ice.

    On one score, though, all the ideas I've seen
    including this idea (I would say my idea, but it
    contains parts stolen from many of the ideas of
    others here) fail the test: I don't think these
    ideas are bigger than the Internet. But maybe
    John Doerr thinks so.

    Other ideas:

    Maglev: nice idea, but takes a lot of juice.
    Probably impractical.

    Hover: also nice, but a bit extravagent. Keep
    in mind, whatever this is, if it is too over-
    the-top, there will be some stigma that will
    hold back its acceptance. I think these gues
    are smart enough to understand that. They
    did allude to a bit of a question about whether
    people would be allowed to use it, but that fits
    for some wheeled vehicles as well as a hover
    vehicle.

    Toilet: Nah. Not as big as the Internet.

    Personal power station: doesn't fit with some
    of the hints that are out there.

    Wireless internet: Maybe, if by that we mean
    ad hoc wireless networks where everyone makes
    their own bandwidth available for others to
    share when it's not being used, with a
    resulting high bandwith network especially in
    cities... But there is no tie-in with a dirty
    product, in this case, unless it is obliquely
    with the fact that telecommuting makes cars
    less useful.

  • If it's time travel, will someone please come back and post as an Anonymous Coward to let us know?

  • by NetJunkie (56134) <<moc.liamg> <ta> <hsan.nosaj>> on Tuesday January 09, 2001 @06:24PM (#517887)
    Here is an article on inside.com as well. PR stunt? Good one if it is.

    http://www.inside.com/jcs/Story?article_id=20218 &p od_id=8
  • by alexburke (119254) <slashdotmail@@@alexburke...ca> on Tuesday January 09, 2001 @06:25PM (#517890)
    From the article:

    According to the proposal, 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.

    Bill Gates has more than US$60 billion to his name. That means this company would go from $0 to >$60 billion in five years? My first reaction is that this is complete horseshit, but if Credit Suisse First Boston [csfb.com], an arm of a major Swiss bank, is behind it, it must certainly carry some weight.

    But think about the sheer logistics behind rocketing to more than $60 billion in corporate worth in only five years... it absolutely boggles the mind!

    Jobs told Kamen the invention would be as significant as the PC, the proposal says.

    If Steve Jobs says this, he just might be on to something. But how many things have been trumpeted as "PC replacements" in the past, oh, ten years?

    --
  • Okay. We have a lot of clues here, looking at the +3 posts and above. I'm going to take a shot at synthesising them.

    The "Stirling engine" is just too silly and I'm going to throw it out. However, the meaning of IT [slashdot.org] post sounds plausable. The USPTO patenet listings [slashdot.org] seems to have some clues. I picked "human transporter" as the most viable entire-product listed. Then there's the Ginger post [slashdot.org] about what Ginger could mean. An editor (in the linked story) called it a "personal hovering craft". All this seems to jive (and go back and read that patent!). "Metro" and "Pro" seem like good names for transportation devices or some sort.

    There's too much mention about "irregular surfaces" and "stairs" and what not, and the thought of people suspended below helicopter blades frightens me so much that I'm going to wager that it is NOT a helicopter. But I believe it is a personal (one-person) hovercraft type device (no doubt, with a novel approach) that has controls like a scooter [or motorcycle] (which allow for leaning), plus a joystick control and a height adjustment control.

    The thought of thousands of people with this would jive with what was said about city regulations. With all the current craze over the scooter fad, yeah, I could see people buying them in droves at the right price, and it sounds far more entertaining than the stock of a previous employeer [yahoo.com] that I have sitting around doing nothing.

    Summary: It's a one person transportation device that does not rely on standard locomotion (which makes it cool) such as a motor driven wheel to move you from point A to B. (Of course, I wonder how good the brakes are!)

    Anyone ever play the game Paranoia by West End Games? Did you ever get the R&D Catalog that had novel inventions such as the "papercut chainsaw" and the "I scream cone"? Well, if so, you'll remember IT. What is IT? You mean, you don't have IT? I WANT IT! PLEASE! Tell me where I can get IT! All your enemies already have IT! [In this case, IT was a handheld computer device that could wipe out any enemy as reliably as any other R&D device in Paranoia. Which is to say, rarely.] Anyone care to join me in some More Treasonous Songs About Food Vats?

  • by Livn4Golf (83604) on Tuesday January 09, 2001 @06:25PM (#517899) Homepage
    What are the chances that the people responsible for IT hire Linus, have a blank website with no tpyos, and finally name the product after a Robert Louis Stevenson character?
  • This has gotta be some kind of cruel joke. It's virtually impossible to go from 0-$60 billion in five years.... I agree with the original poster, this is a swibble.

  • by aidoneus (74503) on Tuesday January 09, 2001 @06:26PM (#517905) Journal
    It took some thinking, but I've figured out what IT is... IT is the newest piece of immensely overhype and excessively shrouded bit if techno hype to be produced since Transmeta's cryptic web page first went up!

    And people are having such a hard time figuring out what IT is...

    :)
  • Here IT is again. [jhu.edu]

    Dancin Santa
  • by zCyl (14362)
    Sounds like a game of tag gone horribly awry...

  • Because if he demoed it to anyone prominent in the transportation industry, they'd probably steal the idea and build it themselves?
    --
    Obfuscated e-mail addresses won't stop sadistic 12-year-old ACs.
  • Does anyone know where to find the missing content of this search result:

    1. The Hooksett Banner Archives, April 22, 1999 [altavista.com]
    April 22, 1999. This week's stories: (click on the headline to jump to story) Pembroke Academy boys recycle clutter and junk into nitrogen-powered...
    URL: www.neighborhoodpub.com/banarchive042299.html - bytes

    from THIS [altavista.com] Altavista query?

  • Hmmm...

    Three men in a small room with hex wrenches, a couple of duffel bags, and a guy with a big "honking" laugh.

    Considering that and the known critical mass of each of these men's egos, I'm thinking's its a new, efficient way to masterbate.

  • IT sounds like some sort of waste disposal that generates power to me. Think Back To The Future when Doc throws some trash into "Mr Fusion" to create power for the time machine.
  • IT: (n. eye- tee). 1. A state of having recently graduated from college with a liberal-arts degree and realizing that all your electrical engineering friends are making bank. 2. A catchall term for 40-something HR reps from conglomerates making any number of x (x.) products, none of which have to do with computers. Term explicitly, or implicitly, indicates an incomprehension for technology related substances. 3. (n.)Dodging term for one who works at a failing .com "Harry, where do you work?", "Oh, I'm in IT."

    IT(n.):syn. Synergy, Value-Add, (phr.)Thinking outside the box. (side: box (n.) is not implicitly labeled). or, any other number of terms upper-management throws around without any clue of definition.

    IT(n.):ant. Work-ethic, Skilled Labor, e.g. "I work for a company that's been around longer than 3 years."


    FluX
    After 16 years, MTV has finally completed its deevolution into the shiny things network
  • Just because of that "dirty, dangerous, and frustrating, esp. for people in cities" comment you shouldn't assume that it's a form of transportation. What if it's a space heater?
  • by mwalker (66677) on Wednesday January 10, 2001 @06:28AM (#517970) Homepage
    ha.

    it's obviously a razor scooter.

    bezos is behind the curve again.
  • Any technology that requires cities to install lines that generate powerful magnetic fields underneath the sidewalks is doomed to fail.
    Heres why:
    • There are possible health effects of keeping your body in strong magnetic fields for long periods of time
    • Those grids will draw a lot of power from already overtaxed power grids
    • chicken and Egg: why build these exensive grids (that require tearing up large sections of sidewalks and roads) when nobody has the "it". Why buy "it" when you cannot use it?
    • People who wear steel-toe boots will be annoyed that their feet keep sticking to the sidewalk
    • People who carry floppy disks/zip disks/tapes/PDAs around will be annoyed when they get home and find all of their media has been degaussed
    • Nearby TVs (in store windows/apartments will be distorted by the fields, not to mention computer monitors).
    • People won't like having to pry metal objects off of the sidewalk when they drop them, nor have the pocketknife in their pocket pull their pants down to the sidewalk (and then stick!)
    I hope this is enough explanation as to why powerful magnetic fields in sidewalks is a bad idea.
  • I believe this patent is for the iBot, which is one of Kamen's claims to fame. IANYM - I am not your mother.
  • by Cyclopatra (230231) on Tuesday January 09, 2001 @11:31PM (#517987)
    IT probably stands for Individual Transport.

    Bah. None of you are thinking big enough. I say IT stands for Instantaneous Transport That's obviously why he needed to build 2 of them - one to transmit, and one to receive.

    OK, so I know I'm dreaming, but I want personal teleportation...

    -Cyclopatra


    "We can't all, and some of us don't." -- Eeyore

  • by Ross C. Brackett (5878) on Tuesday January 09, 2001 @06:34PM (#517994) Homepage
    Dang. I submitted this question Ask Slashdot style under science, hoping it would get serious attention, seeing as how Dean Kamen has brought a lot of good to this world through scientific advances.

    My personal hope is that the Stirling engine discussed on page 2 of this Wired article [wirednews.com] is approaching commercial viability. Cheap portable power generation using virtually any kind of fuel? Sounds awesome and of great potential beneifet to humanity. Anyone close to the project have any inside info? Anyone familiar with this technology want to further explain its coolness?
  • by the eric conspiracy (20178) on Wednesday January 10, 2001 @06:54AM (#518003)
    Clearly this is a La-z-boy e-cliner WITHOUT the 6 month Web TV subscription.

  • by planet_hoth (3049) on Tuesday January 09, 2001 @06:34PM (#518005)
    This post is for you skeptical folks who dare to think all these "IT" articles are actually just hoaxes designed to clog up the internet.

    If you receive an "IT", get rid of it immediately WITHOUT using it. It is the most dangerous thingy yet.

    It will rewrite your hard drive. Not only that, but it will scramble any disks that are even close to your computer (20' range at 72 degrees Fahrenheit).

    It recalibrates your refrigerator's coolness setting so all your ice cream melts and your milk curdles. It will demagnetize the strips on all your credit cards, reprogram your ATM access code, screw up the tracking on your VCR, and use subspace field harmonics to scratch any CD's you try to play.

    It will program your phone autodial to call only your mother-in-law's number.

    It will hide your car keys when you are late for work and interfere with your car radio so that you hear 1940's hits and static while stuck in traffic.

    It will give you nightmares about circus midgets.

    It will replace your shampoo with Nair and your Nair with Rogaine, all while changing all active verbs to passive tense and incorporating undetectable misspellings which grossly change the interpretation of key sentences.

    It will infest your armpits with fleas of a thousands camels.

    It will rewrite your back-up files, leave the toilet seat up and leave the hair dryer plugged in dangerously close to a full bath tub.

    It wantonly removes the forbidden tags from your mattresses and pillows, and refills your skim milk with whole.

    It is insidious and subtle. It is dangerous and terrifying to behold.

    It is also a rather interesting shade of mauve. It will cause the universe to implode at the speed of light with a giant sucking sound, and bother those with sensitive eardrums.

    These are just a few signs. Be afraid. Be very afraid.

    PLEASE FORWARD THIS INFORMATION TO EVERYONE YOU KNOW!!!! Or "IT" will track you down via public transportation. And won't you be sorry then.

  • by Speare (84249) on Tuesday January 09, 2001 @06:36PM (#518021) Homepage Journal

    Link given above was broken due to the magic of "spacedot," the combination of lazy perl code and a narrow text-entry box that adds rand om sp a ces to lon g wor ds, as if mySQL or Perl or HTML really had such wordwrapping limits.

    Fixed:
    http://www.salon.com/books/wire/2001/01/09/ginger/ index.html [salon.com]

  • by jwriney (16598) on Tuesday January 09, 2001 @06:36PM (#518025) Homepage
    Hmm. Based on this article, Electronics Boutique should start accepting pre-orders any minute now...

    --jwriney
  • by Sodium Attack (194559) on Wednesday January 10, 2001 @07:04AM (#518032)
    The problem with US patents is that they're not published until they're granted, meaning a lag of several years between filing and publication.

    Anything that's going to be as big as this article suggests is not going to be patented only in the US. They'll have patents filed in all major developed countries. And most countries publish applications 18 months after filing.

    Most commonly this is done through the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO). They allow you to file a single application (known as a WO document) for a large number of countries, and they also publish applications 18 months after filing. [Side note before you conspiracy theorists get in a tizzy: WIPO does not grant patents. They only offer a simple method by which to file in a large number of countries, and each individual country still decides whether or not to grant the patent.]

    Anyway, the bottom line is that there's less lag in the publication of WO applications than there is in the publication of US applications. If you go to the Delphion patent site [delphion.com] (previously the IBM patent site) and search for WO documents listing Dean Kamen as the inventor, the results are even more interesting than the list of US patents (only transportation-related patents published in 2000 or 2001 included--the older ones are largely the same as the US list given in the parent comment):

    PERSONAL MOBILITY VEHICLES AND METHODS [delphion.com]
    MECHANICAL IMPROVEMENTS TO A PERSONAL VEHICLE [delphion.com]
    BALANCING VEHICLE WITH CAMBER AND TOE-IN [delphion.com]
    CONTROL OF A BALANCING PERSONAL VEHICLE [delphion.com]
    CONTROL SYSTEM AND METHOD FOR WHEELCHAIR [delphion.com]
    FAULT TOLERANT ARCHITECTURE FOR A PERSONAL VEHICLE [delphion.com]

  • by saturnism (177882) on Wednesday January 10, 2001 @12:39AM (#518039)
    a picture [geocities.com] was cited from a response [msnbc.com] on msnbc's 'bbs'
    --
  • by Animats (122034) on Wednesday January 10, 2001 @09:58AM (#518108) Homepage
    Look at the guy's previous work. He did a self-balancing wheelchair that can rise up on two wheels, but that's stuck in FDA approval. He has a number of patents on "personal transportation devices", all of which are variations on the self-balancing wheelchair technology. One of his patents (US 5,971,091) [delphion.com], representing his work from 1993 to 1999, shows a scooter-like device with three wheels on each side, arranged in a triangle. That setup, combined with suitable control technology, can handle curbs and stairs.

    This is consistent with his patents and the description provided. It's not a medical device, the price and size are about right, and if it takes off, it would change the use of streets and sidewalks. It would have many of the same legal problems as skateboards, rollerblades, and scooters. It also has a major product liability problem, but if he's attempted FDA approval on a wheelchair, he may be able to deal with that.

  • by rograndom (112079) on Tuesday January 09, 2001 @06:46PM (#518109) Homepage
    That is the one word the Knights who say Ni cannot stand! Ni! Ni! Ni!
  • by Hard_Code (49548) on Wednesday January 10, 2001 @05:57AM (#518149)
    • IT is not a medical invention.
    • In a private meeting with Bezos, Jobs and Doerr, Kamen assembled two Gingers -- or ITs -- in 10 minutes, using a screwdriver and hex wrenches from components that fit into a couple of large duffel bags and some cardboard boxes.
    • The invention has a fun element to it, because once a Ginger was turned on, Bezos started laughing his "loud, honking laugh".
    • There are possibly two Ginger models, named Metro and Pro -- and the Metro may possibly cost less than $2,000. Bezos is 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?"
    • Jobs is quoted as saying: "...If enough people see the machine you won't have to convince them to architect cities around it. It'll just happen."
    • Kemper says the invention will "sweep over the world and change lives, cities, and ways of thinking."
    • 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." And the invention 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."
    • IT will be a mass-market consumer product "likely to run afoul of existing regulations and or inspire new ones,"
    • according to Kemper. The invention will also likely require "meeting with city planners, regulators, legislators, large commercial companies and university presidents about how cities, companies and campuses can be retro-fitted for Ginger."
    ** It's a ROBOTIC PROSTITUTE!! ** oh happy day!

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