But what is IT ?

A new computer suit promises to let man and machine co-exist in perfect harmony in order to wage war against fellow man.Or a shopping trolley-hovercraft ? Or a one-wheeled pogo-stick stabiised by gyroscopes.

Even the President’s staff had a go. Tom Kalil, deputy director at the White House National Economic Council, said: I think the notion that IT stands for Individual Transport is the most plausible guess. Wouldn’t a jet-pack be cool?’

Kamen was fuming That the turnouts were abroad, following reports of a $250,000 deal for his book that would break the news. He was also aghast that speculation seemed to outstrip even his own rocket-powered imagination. “Expectations are beyond whimsical!” he complained, and has since said the invention is not as revolutionary as some suggest.

The excitement was stoked by Apple chief executive Steve Jobs, who declared: “If enough people see the machine, you won’t have to convince them to architect cities around IT.”

Bob Metcalfe, founder of 3Com hinted at the machine’s nature when he said: “If I invented metal and came out with the first spoon, which would be the big invention – the metal or the spoon?”

Kamen’s biggest invention to date is the iBot Transporter – a six wheeled mobility device’ for the disabled. It climbs stairs, crosses rocky terrain and even does a wheelie to help its user to stand upright. After $50 million and eight years in development, Kamen took an iBot to Paris, strapped himself in and climbed the Eiffel Tower.

Kamen used to live on North Dumpling Island in Long Island Sound, commuting by helicopter. The island has seceded from the United States – Kamen signed a non-aggression pact with President Bush. Clearly, this is a man who likes big gestures but who is also intensely humanitarian. The iBot was inspired by Kamen seeing a man trying to maneuver a wheelchair up a kerb.

Whatever IT is, I predict the technology that underlies it will be profoundly eco-friendly. Maybe Kamen has cracked the problem of running a hydrogen engine economically, inventing a motor where the only exhaust waste is distilled water. If that’s the case, Kamen will have to fight the oil cartels and the US car industry. Then the imagination really starts to boggle.


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