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11.23.20
Grab And Go

This Robot Arm Can Help Wheelchair Users Drink Coffee, Open Doors

__Dan Robitzski__Filed Under: Robots & Machines
Kinova/Victor Tangermann

Extra Reach

A new robot arm can help people who use wheelchairs better handle the day-to-day tasks that might otherwise be too challenging or awkward.

The Jaco, a robotic arm made by the tech company Kinova Robotics, can attach to a wheelchair and operate as a sort of third arm, according to Digital Trends — helping people with limited mobility go about their lives with a greater degree of independence.

Helping Hand

In a promotional video, the Jaco is seen grabbing and carrying a fresh cup of coffee and grabbing a piece of a jigsaw puzzle.

People can control the robot arm using the same controls that they already use to steer their wheelchairs, Kinova head of marketing Sarah Woolverton told Digital Trends. Kinova integrated the arm into existing controls to make the arm as intuitive and simple to master as possible, she said.

“That could be a joystick, a sip-and-puff or whatever else; we can tap into them all,” Woolverton said. “It makes it very, very easy to start using the arm because it’s just an extension of the wheelchair that they’re already using.”

Accessible-ish

Though the Jaco was built to make the world easier to navigate, the device itself is inaccessible. With a $35,000 price tag that isn’t covered by American insurance companies, the Jaco is unlikely to become a standard-issue medical device.

Woolverton told Digital Trends that a more affordable version is in the works, but that driving down the cost also means cutting back on the robotic arm’s speed and fine motor control.

READ MORE: This robot arm for a wheelchair does everything from open doors to apply makeup [Digital Trends]

More on robotics: This Autonomous Robot Arm Feeds People Who Can’t Feed Themselves