Advanced Braille tablet attracts investors
Purdue Ventures, the venture capital investment arm that supports Purdue University-connected startups, has invested $250,000 in a Lafayette-based company that has developed a tablet that can help blind and visually impaired people read text and examine complex diagrams. Tactile Engineering Inc. manufactures the Cadence tactile tablet, which allows readers to experience animations.
CEO Dave Schleppenbach says Cadence provides up to eight lines of electronic Braille cells and can be used as an image viewer with animated, highlighted and interactive images to demonstrate scientific, geographic and other complex subjects.
“It downloads and displays books and documents in a wide range of formats,” Schleppenbach said. “It duplicates the functions of a traditional scientific calculator and allows users to pan, zoom and highlight its tactile output.”
Purdue Ventures’ investment is part of a larger $1.5 million funding round that also included investments from Elevate Ventures, Queen City Angels and private individuals.
“Tactile Engineering has strong connections to Purdue University research, which is a key qualifier for an investment,” said Purdue Ventures Associate Director Riley Gibb. “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.”
Schleppenbach says existing technology, such as voice control and speech synthesis, is limited in supporting 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.”
The company says additional applications are in development, including a web browser, classroom aids, annotation tools, and notetaker and leisure software.
Purdue Ventures manages three funds to support Purdue University-connected startups, each with a different investment focus. It has invested over $12 million since its formation.