Ginger buzz is back

"It" is back, but the invention also known as "Ginger" remains shrouded in mystery.

The elusive gizmo referred to as "It" or "Ginger" was first uncovered early this year as an invention that would revolutionize the world, somehow. And after a whirlwind of media speculation that turned up, well, more speculation, It is back. U.S. television network American Broadcasting Co.'s "Good Morning America" says it will unveil the invention during that morning show on Monday, a spokeswoman for the show confirmed.

Ginger is the work of the lauded New Hampshire inventor Dean Kamen, who made his millions inventing a plastic kidney-dialysis machine, and later a versatile wheelchair that climbs stairs and stands on two wheels.

Despite the clamor of interest from media outlets everywhere, which have written and speculated about Ginger since it was first mentioned, there are few clues as to what Kamen's hyped invention will be. Discussion boards on the Web dedicated to Ginger offer guesses ranging from a hovering transport device to the more agreed-upon conclusion: a personal scooter powered by a clean-running engine called the Sterling.

But apart from speculation, few know for certain what Ginger is and promotions about its debut next week offer little else. "Good Morning America" host Diane Sawyer mentioned Monday's unveiling of Ginger on the morning news show last week, noting that "we don't know if you eat it, or you ride it, or you co-anchor with it," according to reports, citing show transcripts. What they probably do know is that the covert invention could attract big ratings.

Kamen's invention has won over some of Silicon Valley's bigwigs who have seen Ginger and reportedly thrown money behind it, according to initial reports in January on the news Web site Investing icon John Doerr has called Kamen a blend of Thomas Edison and Henry Ford. Apple Computer Corp.'s Steve Jobs was quoted as saying that people will erect entire cities around It. And Inc. founder and CEO Jeff Bezos has taken a special liking to the invention featuring it on Amazon's Web site. News of Ginger was first uncovered when it was revealed that Harvard Business School Press had offered Kamen US$250,000, with the help of a writer, to chronicle the making of Ginger in a book. That was the first and only bit of reality to be revealed about Kamen's work, based out of a Manchester, New Hampshire, research and development lab called DEKA Research & Development Corp.

Calls to DEKA R&D Thursday inquiring about Ginger's debut were not returned.

However, the continued secrecy is not unexpected. In a February interview with CBS Television Network's "60 Minutes" news show Kamen kept his mouth shut about the invention, instead diverting attention to his other projects, which turned out to be just as newsworthy. He offered a tour of his island home off the shore of Long Island, which he visits using a modified helicopter he invented.

Among other notable facts, the inventor told the Christian Science Monitor in March that he has declared his island, dubbed North Dumpling, seceded from the United States after flack from New York officials over his building a windmill there.

Monday, less than a year after Ginger first made its buzz, television viewers could well find out the answer to the burning question, what is Ginger?

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Matt Berger

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