It will revolutionise cities and be bigger than the PC - but what exactly is it?

The IT industry is hardly immune to hype - but, if the promises of a top secret invention known both as 'Ginger' and 'IT' are fulfilled, we ain't seen nothing yet. Assuming that Ginger isn't the figment of someone's imagination...

The IT industry is hardly immune to hype - but, if the promises of a top secret invention known both as 'Ginger' and 'IT' are fulfilled, we ain't seen nothing yet. Assuming that Ginger isn't the figment of someone's imagination...

The strange tale of Ginger kicked off earlier this week, following the publication of a story on industry gossip site inside.com. It is claimed that the Harvard Business School Press had paid $250,000 for rights to publish a book about IT - even though very few people know exactly what IT is, including the editor of the book, nor the agent who signed the deal. The man behind Ginger is 49-year-old scientist Dean Kamen, the author of the planned book is journalist Steve Kemper. According to Kemper, this 'thing' will change the world, and is so extraordinary that Jeff Bezos and Steve Jobs have both got rather excited at its potential. Silicon Valley venture capitalist John Doerr and Credit Suisse First Boston have invested in it. Doerr is also reported to have said he was convinced he wouldn't see the development of anything in his lifetime as important as the web - until he saw Ginger. According to Kemper, Credit Suisse First Boston expects Kamen's invention to make more money in its first year than any start-up in history. It also reckons Kamen will be worth more in five years than Bill Gates (which admittedly could be read both ways...). But Jobs did say the invention would be as significant as the PC. The 'facts' are thin on the ground - leading some to allege that this could be the greatest con the IT industry has seen. But these are the tantalizing clues the men behind the story have given us to ponder: * IT is not a medical invention * It's a mass-market consumer product * Kamen managed to assemble two Gingers in 10 minutes from parts that fit into a couple of large duffel bags and some cardboard boxes, using a screwdriver and hex wrenches * There are possibly two Ginger models, named Metro and Pro, and the Metro may cost less than $2,000 * Jobs is supposed to have said: "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." Ginger will, apparently, "profoundly" affect the environment and the way people live. It will be an alternative to products that are "dirty, expensive, sometimes dangerous and often frustrating, especially for people in the cities". * The invention may also need "meetings with city planners, regulators, legislators, large commercial companies and university presidents about how cities, companies and campuses can be retro-fitted for Ginger". So what is it? silicon.com's bright reporters came up with the following ideas: a personal hovercraft (like a skateboard, but it hovers), a teleporting device (like in Star Trek), a revolutionary and environmentally friendly car and a rabbit you can milk (best not to ask about that one). But we want to know what you think, because you may have some better ideas - if you think there's any truth in any of this in the first place. Post a reader comment below, or email editorial@silicon.com with your thoughts. We'll keep you posted.