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Don't pooh-pooh the 'IT' invention

So, this is "IT." The much ballyhooed invention that is supposed to change the face of transportation as we know it is a scooter?

According to published reports, "IT" or "Ginger" as some call it, is not the garden-variety scooter that have taken over neighborhood sidewalks. "IT" is, reportedly, hydrogen powered and emission free.

While it's hard to fathom traveling to work on a scooter on a snowy day, the early accounts of "IT" should be viewed with the same optimism of the early Wright brothers' flights. In other words, instead of pooh-poohing this innovation, consider the possibilities.

"IT" likely won't replace the automobile or traditional energy sources overnight. But the technology would likely hold more immediate promise for people with disabilities who use wheelchairs. The technology could be employed to build motorized, self-propelled, wheeled personal mobility aides such as wheelchairs, scooters, carts and chariots.

According to Inside magazine, "Ginger represents the first generation of a new mode of transportation that will compete with and possibly replace automobiles.

"The ramifications of a 'hydrogen economy' would be profound on everything from the environment to the energy business to global politics."

As the technology becomes more refined, available on a widespread basis and presumably less expensive, other applications would arise such as new generation of automobiles and home-based power generation devices.

Before anyone jumps to conclusions, it should be understood that the inventor of "IT," Dean Kamen, has refused to discuss the project and will not reveal what "IT" is until next year. Recent press reports about the invention have relied on "corporate surveillance experts" to reveal details of the invention.

Some reports suggest that the invention relies on a revolutionary engine that could bring a new era of cheap, efficient power.

If that's the case, the technology may enable Kamen to create small, relatively inexpensive Stirling engines, engineers have said. In theory, every home could generate its own cheap power with a device the size of an air conditioner that uses natural gas, drastically cutting down on the waste inherent in the electric grid.

If Kamen's track record as an inventor is any indication, there is cause for great hope. Kamen, recipient of the 2000 National Medal of Technology, has invented innovative wheelchairs and an insulin pump.

Inventors are used to the naysayers. All Kamen is saying now is that he is surprised that "IT" has generated so much attention. Time will tell whether he gets the last laugh, but early indications are that he's on to something — again.