Our projects

  • Riding through nature on a hand bike opens up a new dimension for people with spinal cord injuries. However, classic hand bike constructions have reached their limits in this segment. The main problems consist of traction that is too low, the large turning circle, and the complicated suspension system. 

    Together with project initiator Adi Lanker, Project Manager Andreas Gautschi from the Innovation Centre for Assistive Technologies (IAT) is working on a solution. They are developing a functional prototype consisting of a hand bike with full suspension that is extremely agile and has a high level of traction, which can also be used off paved roads.

    There are already recumbent bicycles for able-bodied cyclists with extremely good chassis solutions that meet the needs of hand bikers. The knowledge and experience in the area of recumbent bicycles for able-bodied cyclists will be integrated into the project and adapted to hand bikes.

    Project status: The project is nearing completion. 

  • People with a spinal cord injury spend large parts of their day in a wheelchair. This puts extreme pressure on skin tissue in the area the wheelchair user sits on, which carries a risk of a pressure sore developing. To relieve pressure, the wheelchair user's bottom must be lifted from the seat of the wheelchair for about one minute every hour.

    80-85% of people with spinal cord injuries develop a pressure sore at least once in their life, and a considerable percentage of these sores are in the area of the body they sit on. This occurs despite people with spinal cord injuries sitting on special cushions that aim to distribute the body weight over as large an area as possible.

    Depending on the severity of the sore, surgery may be necessary, which brings with it about two months of healing and rehabilitation.

    This aim is to avoid this. Together with REHAB Basel, the Innovation Centre for Assistive Technologies (IAT) is working on a solution.

    An innovative, technically active wheelchair cushion aims to automate pressure-relieving measures for the first time. Seating stability, which is essential for many activities of daily living and for using a wheelchair independently, must be maintained in this process. 

    The seating area is divided into various support zones, which can be adapted to the personal requirements of the user. Specially developed regulation algorithms constantly transmit the necessary pressure relief measures to the intelligent seat cushion.

    Project status: An ETH report confirms the intended relief function of the Smart Cushion. The developers are looking for industrial partners.

    Logo der Rehab Basel
  • The futuristic Scewo wheelchair is an extraordinarily innovative project that Andreas Gautschi is working on as a consultant.

    Scewo AG originated from a student project by ETH and ZHdK students. The company produces the world’s only semi-autonomous electric wheelchair that combines two wheels with a stair-climbing function. The electric wheelchair is still at the prototype stage and will be launched onto the Swiss market from late 2019 onwards. Scewo AG is committed to accessibility in Switzerland and to the further development of mobility devices. The company has already won several awards for its work, most recently the 2018 ZKB Pioneer Award, the 2019 iF Design Award, and the 2019 redDot Award.

    Project status: The Scewo "Bro" power wheelchair has been developed and is available for purchase. Further information is available at www.scewo.ch.

  • No two people on the planet have an absolutely identical body. In the same way, no spinal cord injury is the same as another.

    For this reason, not only the wheelchair but also the wheelchair cushion needs to be adapted to the individual physical features of a person. So far, customised cushions have involved a great deal of time, effort, and cost. This is where 3D printing technology could help.

    The concept of a 3D printed wheelchair cushion is the brainchild of Dr. Sue Bertschy (Swiss Paraplegic Research). Scan images record the individual contours of a person. The seating profile is then elaborated using a 3D printer. This technology offers a comparatively cost-effective option for the production of customised seat pads.

    Ein mit der 3D-Drucktechnik hergestelltes Sitzkissen

    The first cushion without cover produced using 3D printing technology. 

    The cushion needs to fulfil various requirements. It needs to be light, air-permeable, stabilising, washable, and, in particular, reproducible.

    Recording the seating profile is a further challenge that currently requires a great deal of time and money. The aim is to simplify this in future using modern technology.

    To produce a first prototype of the cushion, those responsible for the project scanned the contour of an existing customised cushion and then printed it. The company CSEM was responsible for scanning the original cushion, preparing the resulting data to activate the 3D printer, including the necessary adaptations to achieve various zones of firmness, and producing the first prototype.

    The test phase has now been completed, and the project is in the second phase, where the aim is to eliminate weak points.

    Project status: Existing, custom-made seat cushions were scanned and are now being reproduced using 3D printing technology. This is expected to result in more in-depth experience with the technology.

  • The B-key keyboard is suitable for typing with just one hand. Thanks to the space bar, the shift mode can be activated, which enables to type more letters together. This makes it possible to use the ten-finger system with five fingers. Increased typing speed is the main advantage for people using the keyboard. However, efficiency is also enhanced in general as the wrist remains almost immobile when using the B-key keyboard, which causes less fatigue.

    A B-key keyboard works for left-handed and right-handed users. It can also be used with two hands like a conventional keyboard.

    B-Key Tastatur zweifarbig abgebildet

    It is extremely simple to transform a standard keyboard into a B-key keyboard. Stickers are supplied with the B-key that can be stuck to the existing keys. Instructions ensure that the stickers are positioned correctly depending on the language of the keyboard.

  • The computer wheelchair interface (CWI) has created a new type of mobility where electric wheelchairs are connected to an eye-controlled system. The intuitive software means that it is easy for users to learn how to control their newly gained independence, even if they were previously unable to enjoy independent mobility.

    The CWI is compatible with all eye-controlled systems (Alea, Tobii, Seetech, Quick Glance, Erica, etc.), and can also be used with non-ocular systems such as Headmouse, Integramouse, or any other display system.

    Eye control occurs via a monitor that is fixed to the wheelchair at a certain distance from the face. A camera is attached behind the monitor so that it looks transparent.

    Bildschirm mit Richtungspfeilen, über den die Augensteuerung läuft

    In this image, the person has started the program in the four-way mode. For the wheelchair to move in a certain direction, all the wheelchair user has to do is keep his or her eye on the appropriate arrow.

    An alternative joystick may be attached to the “in/out” box supplied by the wheelchair manufacturer. The CWI interface is connected directly to the inout port of this box and then connected to the computer via a USB plug. The useful energy source that supplies power to all these devices comes directly from the wheelchair battery, thus allowing total mobility. 

    The image transmitted from the camera can be seen on the monitor with direction arrows. The person fixes his or her gaze on the appropriate arrow to move in the desired direction. It is also possible to switch from this “four-way” mode into a proportional mode with more than 80 possible directions, which allows the system to react considerably more quickly.

  • Explanations and demonstrations relating to the topic of paralysis are abstract and difficult for people without prior medical knowledge to understand.

    The spinal cord injury visualisation project provides a three-dimensional representation of the effects of a spinal cord injury. The program is used in the new ParaForum Visitor Centre and elsewhere. It allows independent and interactive transmission of knowledge.

    The 3D visualisation will also be used in awareness courses, to explain things to patients, and on the website of the Paraplegic Group.

    Project status: The project has been completed. The cross section visualisation is part of the exhibition at ParaForum and now available on our website. 

    Bildschirmfoto der Rückenvisualisierungs-Software
  • For people with a spinal cord injury, the transfer from, for example, wheelchair to car is an obstacle.

    Lack of strength, faulty technique, or pain can all restrict a person's transfer ability.

    The positive effect of standing on joint mobility, mental state, and the prevention of health-damaging pressure sores is undisputed.

    The idea of a transfer standing aid originated from REHAB Basel AG and is now being implemented in a bachelor’s degree by students at the Centre for Product and Process Development (ZPP) of the Zurich University of Applied Sciences (ZHAW) in cooperation with the Innovation Centre for Assistive Technologies (IAT). The aim is to create a standing aid that includes a transfer function and that can be operated independently by the user. The aim of the device is to make standing and transfers possible without external help.

    Project status: The result of the Bachelor's thesis at the ZHAW and ZPP serves as the basis for further steps. A multidisciplinary group is currently discussing how various requests could be combined with similar ideas and whether the project should be continued in the form of a large-scale project.

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