- Purdue Ventures announced it has invested in Tactile Engineering. These are the details.
Purdue Ventures – which manages three funds to support Purdue University-connected startups – has invested $250,000 in Tactile Engineering – which is a company that has developed assistive educational technology to enable people affected by blindness and low vision. This investment is part of a larger $1.5 million funding round for Tactile Engineering that includes investments from Elevate Ventures, Queen City Angels and private individuals.
Tactile Engineering CEO Dave Schleppenbach said the company’s Cadence tactile tablet enables readers to access up to eight lines of electronic Braille cells.
Cadence’s refreshable display of electronic cells uses standard Braille size, spacing and height. And the modular cells are replaceable and Tactile Engineering offers web-based support tools to enable remote calibration. And Schleppenbach said Cadence could be used as an e-reader, a graphing calculator and an image viewer.
Additional applications are in development, including a web browser, classroom aids, annotation tools, and notetaker and leisure software. And Cadence’s built-in Wi-Fi allows users to download and install new apps as they become available.
Schleppenbach said Tactile Engineering strongly supports the national objective to strengthen Braille literacy. And he said literacy is critical for gaining employment, especially in high-demand technical and scientific roles.
Schleppenbach said the Purdue Ventures investment and the funding round will enable Tactile Engineering to invest in additional capital equipment, parts and labor to manufacture Cadence in larger quantities. And he said the company has other significant ties to Purdue.
Riley Gibb, associate director of Purdue Ventures, said Tactile Engineering is a strong addition to the investment portfolio.
“Students, professionals and leisure readers can use Cadence to navigate long equations and access technical diagrams. Multiple Cadence devices can be linked to form larger readable surfaces.”
“It downloads and displays books and documents in a wide range of formats. It duplicates the functions of a traditional scientific calculator and allows users to pan, zoom and highlight its tactile output. It also can be used as an image viewer with animated, highlighted and interactive images to demonstrate scientific, geographic and other complex subjects.”
“According to the National Federation of the Blind, 70% of adults who are blind are unemployed. Of those persons with vision impairments who are employed, 90% are Braille-literate.”
“Although advances in voice control and speech synthesis might seem to offer a solution to workplace accessibility, such tools cannot provide access to mathematics, technical content or graphics, all of which are vital for equal-opportunity STEM education and employment. The goal of providing this access drives everything we do at Tactile Engineering.”
“Several of our founders and employees have a Purdue academic background; our original research in the field started while at Purdue. The Purdue Manufacturing Extension Partnership has been immensely helpful in providing expertise to develop our robotic assembly plant. Finally, because Cadence has an educational focus, Purdue would be a great avenue for us to develop accessible content and test results with students.”
— Tactile Engineering CEO Dave Schleppenbach
“Tactile Engineering has strong connections to Purdue University research, which is a key qualifier for an investment. We also appreciate the company is serving an unmet need – strengthening learning in the STEM fields for people who are affected by blindness and low vision – in a unique way with the multiple applications of its Cadence tool.”
— Riley Gibb, associate director of Purdue Ventures