2Mar Robotics is a Melbourne company founded by engineering student Marita Cheng and software developer Hok Shun Poon. They invented the Jeva robotic arm so that people with disabilities can benefit from advancements in robotics. The arm assists people with quadriplegia, muscular dystrophy, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease and cerebral palsy. It can be clipped onto tables and moved from mount to mount depending on where it is needed. It can be mounted on wheelchairs, bathrooms and kitchen and bedside tables.
How it works
The arm is connected to a person’s iPhone or iPad. Depending on the user’s level of mobility, it can either work in sync with the control or can be moved using voice commands. From next year it will be controlled with gyroscopes used in an Emotiv headset. This is a wireless headset that reads brainwaves and uses a mobile app to translate these into understandable data.
The device can record and save a movement or program, and access it later on. A camera sits on the arm and the image is projected onto the iPhone or iPad. This allows someone in a wheelchair to see behind them or check whether they have dropped anything. It uses relative motion and is 80cm long.
The needs of the person with a disability directed the development of the robotic arm. It can open doors, turn light switches on and off, press pedestrian buttons, pour drinks, feed a person, administer medication, and even draw pictures.
The device has won numerous awards, including the ATP Innovations’ Explorer, and the Innovation Excellence awards.
The full cost of the Jeva robotic arm is estimated at $40,000, with a first release in May. The three criteria for this product are aesthetics, discreetness and functionality.
Marita Cheng has a double degree in mechatronics and computers. In a recent interview, she said she liked the idea of typing into a computer, sending it along some wires, and then having that cause an actual outcome in the real, physical world.
In 2008 she established RoboGals, an international organisation run by students aimed at increasing female involvement in engineering, science and technology. They host educational robotics workshops and career talks for students. In 2012 Marita won the Young Australian of the Year award for her work on RoboGals. She believes engineering is important because a nation that doesn’t create is forced to just consume.