NZ-designed self-balancing wheelchair goes hands-free


Ogo is a hands-free wheelchair (Credit: Ogo).

Ogo is a hands-free wheelchair (Credit: Ogo).

A New Zealand designer is revamping the traditional wheelchair design with a new model that frees the arms of the user. Instead of using the hands to create movement, the user moves their upper body to direct the two wheels. Kevin Halsall was inspired to develop Ogo after noticing a friend’s difficulties with a traditional wheelchair, and deciding that things could be better.

Halsall has been experimenting with various designs for a few years now, and has arrived at Ogo with its control system based on a moving seat. If the rider leans forward, the chair moves forward. When they lean back, the wheelchair reverses. To switch direction, they can lean to the side – if moving up a flight of stairs is a priority, the Topchair-S may be the answer.

Besides being dynamic and user-friendly, the designer says that Ogo stimulates upper body mobility and increases core muscle strength because the body becomes part of the machine, which, in its turn, almost becomes an extension of the user’s body.

The rider also has the option to operate the wheelchair in a different way, though, as Ogo features a thumb-controlled joystick that can be installed on either side.


Halsall is now fundraising on Indiegogo to develop five prototypes to cater for the more specific needs of varying levels of disability. He concluded he should create several models while testing the initial design with help from paraplegics, quadriplegics, quad amputees and others. He says response has been invariably positive, but the Ogo design so far has been for people with lower-level spinal injuries only.

The five prototypes will feature push-button controls to start up and power down the machine, and also shut it down automatically if the rider gets off the seat, the design of which will also be improved. The prototypes will be available for testing across New Zealand’s main cities.

A pledge of US$1,000 will get supporters an Ogo of their own, with delivery estimated for September 2017 if all goes according to plan.

The video below shows Halsall talking about Ogo and why he is fundraising for the prototypes.

Other sources: Ogo, Indiegogo

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