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What is it, this Dean Kamen machine?

By ContinuousPark in MLP
Wed Jan 10, 2001 at 10:33:15 AM EST
Tags: Technology (all tags)

What's this invention about? I came across this article at Inside. Dean Kamen (profiled here and here) is at it again. He appears to be working in something revolutionary but he won't tell us what it is.

I quote from the article:
"Harvard Business School Press executive editor Hollis Heimbouch has just paid $250,000 for a book about IT. In a private meeting with Jeff Bezos, Steve Jobs and John 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. 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.' 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.'"

Now, this may very well be a hoax, BUT even in that case it got me thinking: What could you possible be building that's so revolutionary?? Is it possible for the next Edison to come along or has technology advanced so much than theoretical breakthroughs would be necessary for a new kind of artifact to be invented?


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What's this invention?
o a cheap energy generator 12%
o the Coolest toy ever 10%
o something we can't even imagine 4%
o something we shouldn't be talking about as it would put our lives in danger 4%
o something that could be out of The Simpsons 7%
o something he saw at Star Trek 8%
o a simple way to attract attention and money 51%

Votes: 83
Results | Other Polls

Related Links
o article
o here
o here [2]
o Also by ContinuousPark

Display: Sort:
What is it, this Dean Kamen machine? | 39 comments (34 topical, 5 editorial, 0 hidden)
Couldn't get the link to the article working (2.00 / 4) (#1)
by Phage on Tue Jan 09, 2001 at 09:16:28 PM EST

But we can rule out nanotech...duffel bags and boxes are not generally part of the required apparatus.

Energy is the obvious candidate.

I don't find Heathens to be sexy, as a general rule.

solar cells (2.00 / 2) (#5)
by jbridge21 on Tue Jan 09, 2001 at 10:25:56 PM EST

I'll bet that this is related to solar power technology. Who agrees/disagrees? why?

Not until 2002.. (2.00 / 2) (#6)
by driph on Tue Jan 09, 2001 at 10:43:41 PM EST

H was able to build and show two devices that were able to fascinate Jobs and Bezos... that shows that the technology is at a stage in development where it's at least prototyped... However, the article goes on to say that it won't even be revealed until 2002. When are they going to patent it? I'm intrigued...

Do they really think that with this much fanfare it'll remain a secret until then?

Vegas isn't a liberal stronghold. It's the place where the rich and powerful gamble away their company's pension fund and strangle call girls in their hotel rooms. - Psycho Dave
My Guess (4.00 / 1) (#7)
by Dacta on Tue Jan 09, 2001 at 10:52:56 PM EST

Considering Dean Kamen's last product (a <a href="http://www.msnbc.com/news/285231.asp?cp1=1>wheelchair that could walk upstairs), and this (hyperlink won't work: http://cs.clackamas.cc.or.us/CLASSES/CS160/fal00-01/articles/Dean%20Kamen's%20IBOT%20is%20not%20a%20wheelchair%20--%20users%20wear%20it,%20processors%20and%20all%20(InfoWorld).htm ) intriging article, I'm thinking it's a form of personal transportation.

If he uses similar technology as outlined above, makes it cheaper and more compact, I can see a big market for it. Imagine being able to move around at running pace, using no more energy that walking (and being able to leap tall buildings with a single bound ;-) ). I suspect his technologies could be used to produce something like that.

I'm thinking... (none / 0) (#11)
by davidduncanscott on Tue Jan 09, 2001 at 11:27:50 PM EST


After all, Edison and Ford did their best work a long time ago.

[ Parent ]

Personal Transportation makes sense (none / 0) (#31)
by retinaburn on Wed Jan 10, 2001 at 11:54:14 AM EST

Some kind of small wheelchair type bicycle I imagine. It would explain the "old technology" references. As well as building cities "around" it and retrofitting campus's for it (a la fancy bike racks). I hope its not powerered or else its yet another reason for people to become fat &/or lazy.

I think that we are a young species that often fucks with things we don't know how to unfuck. -- Tycho

[ Parent ]
What it is? (2.50 / 2) (#8)
by tftp on Tue Jan 09, 2001 at 11:10:31 PM EST

My guess, it is either a sex toy or a Pogo stick :-) Both perfectly fit statements made about the device!

Pogo (none / 0) (#25)
by Knile87 on Wed Jan 10, 2001 at 09:51:22 AM EST

Not just any pogo stick... but a super-duper jet-powered one!!

"We're all on a big ship! We're on a big cruise, across the world!" -- Iowa Bob, in Hotel New Hampshire

[ Parent ]
i got it.. (2.66 / 3) (#9)
by lucid on Tue Jan 09, 2001 at 11:10:36 PM EST

IT must be that e-lectrical banana thing. a few years back you couldn't help but hear about IT. ITs bound to be the very next craze.

sorry.. i couldn't help myself... somebody shoot me..

I think it's a transportation device (3.20 / 5) (#10)
by puzzlingevidence on Tue Jan 09, 2001 at 11:19:05 PM EST

Kamen specializes in building transportation devices, new engines, and that kind of thing.

I suspect that it's a "floating disc" transportation system. Humans will be able to use it to float over different terrains at respectable speeds, and even gain some height.

This is all based on his extant patents and the implications mentioned in the articles.

Regardless, it'll probably be cool.

A man may build a throne of bayonets, but he can not sit on it. --Inge

Some ideas (4.66 / 3) (#12)
by Scrag on Tue Jan 09, 2001 at 11:34:48 PM EST

When guessing what is is, we need to factor in all the limitations that we are certain of:

1 - It can fit into a couple of duffel bags.

2 - Cities would need to be built to accomodate it.

3 - It may run into legality issues.

4 - It is relatively cheap (~$2000).

5 - It is not a medical invention.

6 - It will be an alternative to a current technology (or technologies).

7 - IT will be a mass-market consumer product.

8 - Feel free to add more limitations.

My guesses:

- Personal transportation device of some sort.

Really, other than that guess, I have no idea. I doubt it is an efficient energy source, as it doesn't really fit the limitations. Anyone else have some good guesses?

BTW - Heres more links:
MSNBC Article
Inventor Bio
Inventor's Site
Salon Article

"I'm... responsible for... many atrocities" - rusty
I agree but.. (5.00 / 1) (#19)
by BigZaphod on Wed Jan 10, 2001 at 03:17:45 AM EST

I agree that "it" is probably a transportation device. However, I would argue that it *also* includes an efficient energy source. The reason is that it was meant to replace/augment the things people in cities often find "dirty". That implies (to me) that there is a change of power supply as well. So perhaps he has got a cool new engine working and while he was finishing that up he envisioned one of the first real uses for it--personal transportation. Judging from the various bios and interviews I have read about Dean, he is in this to change to world. The money doesn't concern him much as long as he has enough to keep playing with his ideas. Since I think that seems to be his first motive, the invention is probably something very practical in terms of enviromental, personal, societial, and economic impact. I really don't think (hope) it's a hoax. He doesn't strike me as the type. This could be huge. Really huge. And I expect we will all know before 2002.

"We're all patients, there are no doctors, our meds ran out a long time ago and nobody loves us." - skyknight
[ Parent ]
My "clean" power source... (none / 0) (#32)
by retinaburn on Wed Jan 10, 2001 at 11:57:50 AM EST

my legs. A small sitting type bicycle dealie...thats what i figure.

I think that we are a young species that often fucks with things we don't know how to unfuck. -- Tycho

[ Parent ]
Would *this* device fit those categories? (none / 0) (#36)
by goonie on Wed Jan 10, 2001 at 07:08:31 PM EST

The Love Light, which supposedly alters brain-wave patterns to induce sexual arousal. Let's see:
  • It could fit into a couple of duffel bags</LLI>
  • Hmmm, while not strictly necessary, modifying cities to have a bunch of these could be, well, kind of amusing :)
  • It could well run in to legality issues, particularly in Alabama.
  • A few lights and a ASIC to control them can't be that expensive.
  • It's not really a medical invention.
  • It might replace alcohol and trips to museums - does that count?
  • It would be highly likely to be a mass-market consumer product.
  • Also, it could well have induced a laugh from Jobs and Bezos ;-)
  • IT will be available in 2002. So will the Love Light.
What do you think ladies and gentlemen? ;-)

[ Parent ]
My Guess is... (2.00 / 1) (#13)
by iCEBaLM on Tue Jan 09, 2001 at 11:37:50 PM EST

... cold fusion power generator.

-- iCEBaLM

Doubt it (none / 0) (#26)
by Knile87 on Wed Jan 10, 2001 at 09:53:12 AM EST

Would Jeff Bezos laugh heartily at cold fusion?
"Cold fusion is no laughing matter, son. You ought to be crying out for mama.."

"We're all on a big ship! We're on a big cruise, across the world!" -- Iowa Bob, in Hotel New Hampshire

[ Parent ]
Patent (2.00 / 1) (#14)
by Tropick on Wed Jan 10, 2001 at 12:21:18 AM EST

If this object is so good, and is so easy to sell. He probally has some patent information on it right? Has anyone checked this out yet? Im lazy.

Nope (4.00 / 2) (#30)
by puzzlingevidence on Wed Jan 10, 2001 at 11:39:04 AM EST

It looks like Kamen patents all of his own work (being an independent brainbox), but there's no specific patent for what IT looks to be.

A man may build a throne of bayonets, but he can not sit on it. --Inge
[ Parent ]

what about real virtual reality technology (3.00 / 1) (#15)
by genisis on Wed Jan 10, 2001 at 12:56:21 AM EST

Cities can be built around virtual reality centers(libarys), people can have with them, and they will change the way we interect with the digital world...

No relation to the "Dean Drive", right? (4.00 / 1) (#16)
by Christopher Thomas on Wed Jan 10, 2001 at 01:46:49 AM EST

Probably just a coincidence, but this reminds me strongly of the "Dean Drive", which was allegedly a reactionless space drive. One of many URLs on the device: http://www.jerrypournelle.com/sciences/dean.html#deandrive

Different Dean, and probably also vapourware.

My bet is: (3.00 / 2) (#17)
by odaiwai on Wed Jan 10, 2001 at 02:33:33 AM EST

it's either a hovering skateboard or a spindizzy.

-- "They're chefs! Chefs with chainsaws!"
2 possibilities (3.00 / 1) (#20)
by squigly on Wed Jan 10, 2001 at 03:18:17 AM EST

IT could possibly be

Infinite Telecommute - A teleprescence system as good as being there, or a teleportation device.

Imagination Twister - A new Rubik Cube, costing about $1980 less that $2000. The rest of the information is deliberately misleading and designed to intrique us.

People who sig other people have nothing intelligent to say for themselves - anonimouse
Odd coincidence (off-topic) (4.50 / 2) (#21)
by Potsy on Wed Jan 10, 2001 at 04:40:18 AM EST

Have a look at this patent filed by Kamen et al in 1999. Scroll down until you get to the patent examiner's name ("Primary/Assistant Examiners"). Yikes! You can't escape!

Anyway, this patent appears to cover some of the technology from Kamen's wheelchair, but the picture on page 16 might give some hint of what's coming, since, as many people say, some kind of transportation device is a likely possibility. Perhaps a fully-enclosed, motorized scooter? (Nah, why would Bezos laugh about that?)

Well... (none / 0) (#29)
by 11223 on Wed Jan 10, 2001 at 10:33:59 AM EST

We don't know. I'm suspecting that Bezos laughed good-naturedly at how fast it came together, or the components used. (See above for speculation on that. I think it uses cardboard boxes as part of the material!)

The dead hand of Asimov's mass psychology wins every time.
[ Parent ]

+1 FP (4.00 / 1) (#22)
by slaytanic killer on Wed Jan 10, 2001 at 07:24:22 AM EST

Thank you for the links; I was as unaware of Dean Kamen as he is of Shirley MacClaine.

It seems that his company specializes in two things: Energy production and refining mechanical implementations of things. A lot of things can suddenly come into creation when those two factors are deeply improved. When you look at it, all that matters with getting large objects to do useful work, is that there needs to be enough energy to do it, and something that channels it correctly and as precisely as one needs.

If you are looking at something as fairly stagnant as the auto industry, they are making only incremental improvements because of politics and other constraints. A company which sets out to do interesting stuff can leapfrog and do something that looks very far ahead of its time. So, I believe it is a combination of energy innovation + transportation.

Perhaps... (2.00 / 1) (#24)
by scottli on Wed Jan 10, 2001 at 09:28:33 AM EST

Smart Wheels, a la 'Snow Crash' and 'Diamond Age'?

IT is.... (3.00 / 1) (#27)
by 11223 on Wed Jan 10, 2001 at 10:20:22 AM EST

IT is: (drumroll, please...) a space heater that's easier to use and operates by plugging in to a water line.

Think about it. It fits all (well, most of) the cues.

(This just shows that wild speculation can come up with anything you please.)

The dead hand of Asimov's mass psychology wins every time.

Another note... (3.00 / 1) (#28)
by 11223 on Wed Jan 10, 2001 at 10:28:31 AM EST

If you read this sentence carefully:

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.

You can read this two ways. You could read it as "assembled "components, which fit into (large duffel bags and cardboard boxes)" (parenthesis for grouping). Or, you could read it as "assembled (components that fit into large duffel bats) and some boxes" - e.g. boxes were part of the assembly. Hmmm.

The dead hand of Asimov's mass psychology wins every time.

Moon Boots (3.00 / 1) (#33)
by gunnk on Wed Jan 10, 2001 at 12:40:36 PM EST

Powered moon boots... boing boing boing....

Stirling Engine powered bicycle... (2.00 / 1) (#34)
by cr0sh on Wed Jan 10, 2001 at 02:56:56 PM EST

That probably breaks down/folds for convenient storage...

Think of one of those folding bikes, and throw a very high efficiency/moderate horsepower stirling engine on it...

maybe its a Stirling Engine... (3.50 / 2) (#35)
by chopper on Wed Jan 10, 2001 at 05:07:04 PM EST

word is he's been working on a Stirling Engine, maybe he got it right...

i dunno, the clues sorta fit a new, cleaner engine, maybe?

give a man a fish,he'll eat for a day

give a man religion and he'll starve to death while praying for a fish

Why two? (3.00 / 1) (#37)
by Lionfire on Thu Jan 11, 2001 at 12:17:04 AM EST

I can't help but feel that building two "ITs" for his demonstration is a little odd... unless multiple "ITs" are somehow useable together. Perhaps multiple "ITs" are essential for use?

[ blog | cute ]
Oblig. Beowulf post (none / 0) (#38)
by hoss10 on Fri Jan 12, 2001 at 07:31:34 PM EST

Bezos liked it and said:

Imagine a Beowulf cluster of them!

Kamen knew this was the last piece of the puzzle
We know this because of the quote from the article:

Kamen assembled two Gingers -- or ITs

This is Ginger (none / 0) (#39)
by Gameboy70 on Sun Jan 14, 2001 at 02:13:01 PM EST

The illustration at http://ipdl.wipo.int/PCT-IMAGES/14122000/US0015144_14122000_pub_gex.g4-b.jpg is from Kamen's December patent filing with the WIPO (I'd do an HREF link, but for some reason the closing tag gets dropped when I preview it). While it could be more detailed, it doesn't leave much to the imagination, either. As to whether its importance will supercede the internet? Well, that's just Jobs and Bezos talking.

What is it, this Dean Kamen machine? | 39 comments (34 topical, 5 editorial, 0 hidden)
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