Qantas and the Australian Women’s Weekly, in association with Acer, hosted the Women of the Future awards at a gala dinner at the Art Gallery of New South Wales in Sydney. At the event, start-up robotics company, 2Mar Robotics founder, Marita Cheng, was recognised for her invention.
Cheng, along with two other finalists, were named Women of the Future. Cheng and Bus Stop Films co-founder, Genevieve Clay-Smith, tied for the Judges' Choice title, while Strong Girl Fitness founder, Rowena Gilbett, nabbed the People's Choice gong.
The Women of the Future competition was judged by an esteemed list of women that included Turia Pitt, Julie Bishop, Jesinta Campbell, Leigh Sales, Chloe Shorten, Lisa Wilkinson, and Denise Morcombe.
Cheng’s first invention was a robot arm, named Jeva, designed to help those with limited upper body mobility. This project saw her establish the company, 2Mar Robotics. The next project that she’s working on is Teleroo, a video telephone to assist people who work remotely to connect with the office, patients in hospital, family, and friends.
“Reading stories about inspirational women really inspired me about what we can achieve as women. As I was always reading about these women doing inspiring things, I knew that if they could do it, so could I.
“As I was growing up, I saw the Internet, I saw amazing competing processing power and I thought why does it only exist in computers and why can’t we use those processors and apply them to the real world so we can make mechanical systems move and improve our lives in a day to day basis,” she said.
Cheng mentioned she started building robots as she was inspired by having robots that aided people with their daily routines.
“Why can’t I have a robot doing the dishes for me? Why can’t I have a robot mopping the floor or doing the laundry? So I thought I should get involved in that, especially since it will help people with disabilities, the elderly, and those that can use the robot as a carer.
She claimed Jeva, mounted on a wheelchair, table or bench, enables a user to control the arm using an iPhone, iPad, Android phone or tablet, and two types of headset control interfaces, to move and grip objects. Common tasks can be easily repeated again later.Read more: Wanted: Young Victorian innovators
Teleroo, the telepresence robot will reduce people's need to travel while being a low-cost robot that is accessible to many people.
“I made this platform because a robot arm just sitting by itself in the corner of a room wouldn’t be helpful to anyone. So this way, we can have these robot arms that can move around to help us. That’s what I want to make reality in the coming years,” Cheng added.
All three winners have been awarded $10,000 in cash, a $10,000 Qantas travel bursary and a year's Qantas Club membership.