This elevator goes up, down and sideways, and could be the key to taller skyscrapers

This elevator can move up, down, and sideways
This elevator can move up, down, and sideways

The elevator is going omnidirectional. German company thyssenKrupp, has developed a ropeless elevator system called MULTI. Each cabin can move horizontally as well as vertically. The technology used to move the elevators through the shafts is the same magnetic mechanism used by Japan's maglev train.

MULTI could be critical in the construction of higher buildings. The vertical run of a typical elevator is limited to about about 1,640 feet due to the weight of the cables. Some of these limitations were overcome in 2013 with the invention of the KONE UltraRope. The Ultrarope is a lightweight carbon fiber cable that essentially doubled the height that an elevator could travel.

"The MULTI invention eliminates that [ropes] entirely. So in theory, you could go up to infinity in any dimension," says Daniel Safarik, editor of the Council of Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat journal.

Another advantage of the MULTI system: a need for fewer shafts.

"If you can...reduce by some substantial portion the number of shafts you have to have in a building in order to achieve a certain height, that gives you back floor space that you can now rent or sell," Safrik says.

ThyssenKrupp has been testing its MULTI system in a 800-foot tower in Rottweil, Germany. Its first commercial installation will be at OVG Real Estate's new East Side Tower in Berlin, which is expected to be finished in 2020.

"The evolutionary bottleneck that has been created by the exclusively vertical elevator system has been removed, and this opens up some possibilities to dramatically change the urban landscape of our city."