Robotics That Change Lives: At The Abilities Expo, Boston

Imagine being thirsty but ALWAYS having to ask someone to get you a drink?

That’s how it’s been for Adrianna, until she had the chance to try out the Jaco Arm by Kinova, a Canadian robotics company.  We had a chance to see it in action at the Abilities Expo in Boston this past weekend;  you can check it out on YouTube here:


The Jaco Arm runs off the battery on Adrianna’s power chair, and has a range of motion of 360 degrees.  The articulation on the sinewy arm is like a snake – no jerky, robot-of-days-past movements on this product.  The pincher grip can pick up an M&M or a dog leash, and it shakes your hand with a firm but not-too-tight grip.  Something on the floor to be retrieved? No problem.  The Jaco Arm is long and can reach from a large electric wheelchair to a tabletop, floor, or closet shelf easily.

The price tag is hefty, at about $40,000, but what a game-changer this product is!

That wasn’t all at the Abilities Expo this year.   We met the engineer behind the Smart Drive, a power-assist device to manual wheelchair-users – the tool is about 8 lbs and easily attaches (and detaches) from a manual chair.  And then there’s the Go Grit chair, a lever-powered manual chair that was developed at MIT’s Mobility Lab and is changing lives in India and now the US.  Last but not least, new to us is the Roho seat, a “dry flotation technology” that reduces the friction a wheelchair-user experiences – and hopefully decreases pressure sore incidences!  Marianne was sold.

The Abilities Expo has come annually to Boston in recent years, and you can get on the mailing list here.  There are expos in the Bay Area in November, LA in March, New York in May, Chicago in June and Houston in July (not sure we’ll be making the road trip to Houston in July, but hey, someone will!).  I can’t say enough about the resources available at these expos:   medical products and wheelchairs, clothing, connections to outdoor programs, service programs, and workshops.



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