Forschungsinstitut Technologie und Behinderung Project OMNI





Project OMNI

Office wheelchair with high manoeuvrability and navigational intelligence for people with severe handicap

Short description

Picture of the OMNI wheelchair
Prototype of the OMNI wheelchair

Although conventional indoor wheelchairs have a good manoeuvrability, it is often difficult to move them in cramped office rooms or bath rooms.

An electrical wheelchair which applies the Mecanum conept of wheels has considerable advantages over conventional indoor wheelchairs:

  • Movement of the wheelchair in all directions - including sidewards and diagonal - is possible.
  • All directions of movement can be controlled indepently of each other, eg. through a 3D joystick; including rotation on any spot.
  • This results in extremely high manoeurvrability.
  • The operation is easy and intuitive.

In cooperation with FernUniversität Hagen, FTB has developed a prototype of such a wheelchair. This first prototype was further developed within the European project OMNI:

  • Constructive imrovements resulting in a compact design.
  • Modular design: additional functional modules can be integrated according to the user's needs.
  • A sensor system (ultra-sonic and infra-red sensors) automatically detects obstacles and supports the navigation module especially in sidewards and backwards movements.
  • A versatile and adapatable human-machine-interface enables the user to control all functions of the wheelchai with the same operating device and concept.
  • A variety of operating elements (e.g. head or foot buttons) is applicable for users who cannot operate a joystick.
  • An environmental control module enables the user to remotely control electrical devices.
  • Testing and evaluation with experienced wheelchair users. The results influence the design process.

Menue of various functions of the wheelchair, operated through the wheelchair joystick
Menue of various functions of the wheelchair,
operated through the wheelchair joystick

Focus of  FTB

  • User needs analysis, requirements analysis
  • General concept and design
  • Mechanical and electrical assembly
  • Operating devices, man-machine interface
  • User evaluation

Project partners

  • FernUniversität Hagen - Lehrstuhl Prozeßsteuerung und Regelungstechnik, Hagen, Germany (project leader)
  • Ortopedia GmbH, Kiel, Germany
  • Scienzia machinale srl, Pisa, Italy
  • Scuola Superiore S. Anna, Pis, Italy
  • CALL Centre - University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, UK
  • AIP - Institut für Automation, Informations- und Produktionsmanagement, Hagen, Germany

Contact persons at FTB

Project data

Picture of the OMNI wheelchair with height adjustment unit
Prototype of the OMNI wheelchair
with height adjustment unit

Duration: 12/1993 - 08/1996

Funding: co-funded by the European Commission within the TIDE Programme

Diploma thesis

  • Susanne Wittelsbürger: Technische Arbeitshilfe für gehbehinderte Menschen. Bergische Universität Gesamthochschule Wuppertal, FB Industrial Design, 1995
  • Christian Noack: Steuerungsunterstützung für den omnidirektionalen Rollstuhl. Universität Dortmund, FB Informatik, 7/1997

Constructive student thesis

  • Thorsten Bobke: Entwicklung und Auslegung des Fahrwerks eines neuartigen elektrischen Rollstuhls. 1992
  • Irene Süßemilch: Sitzhöhenverstellung mit Aufnahme für verschiedene Pkw-Sitze an einem Rollstuhl. 1996


  • H. Hoyer, R. Hoelper, U. Borgolte, Ch. Bühler, H. Heck, W. Humann, I. Craig, R. Valleggi, A. M. Sabatini: The OMNI Wheelchair with High Manoeuvrability and Navigational Intelligence. The European Context for Assistive Technology, Proc. of the 2nd TIDE Congress, 26-28 April 1995, Paris, pp. 285-289
  • U. Borgolte, R. Hoelper, H. Hoyer, H. Heck, W. Humann, J. Nedza, I. Craig, R. Valleggi, A. M. Sabatini: Intelligent Control of a Semi-Autonomous Omnidirectional Wheelchair. Proceedings of the 3rd International Symposium on Intelligent Robotic Systems (SIRS '95), Pisa, July 1995, pp. 113-120
  • Christian Bühler, Helmut Heck, Wolfram Humann: User-Driven Human-Machine Interface Configuration for a Wheelchair with Complex Functionality. Proceedings of the 4th European Conference for the Advancement of Assistive Technology, Thessaloniki, Greece, 29.09.-02.10.1997; In: G. Anogianakis, C. Bühler, M. Soede (Eds.): Advancement of Assistive Technology. Amsterdam Berlin Oxford Tokyo Washington/DC: IOS Press, 1997; ISBN 90-5199-361-7; pp. 375-380
  • Ulrich Borgolte, Helmut Hoyer, Christian Bühler, Helmut Heck, Ralf Hoelper: Architectural Concepts of a Semi-autonomous Wheelchair. Journal of Intelligent and Robotic Systems 22. Kluwer Academic Publishers, 1998; pp. 233-253

Last Updated at Tuesday, 16 July 2013