Tactile Engineering Inc., a company that has developed assistive educational technology to enable people affected by blindness and low vision, has received $250,000 in a funding round led by Purdue Ventures, the investment arm of Purdue University that focuses on startup companies raising early-stage investment money.
Founded in 2013 by Dave Schleppenbach, Tactile Engineering is an Indiana-based startup developing advanced assistive technologies and is the creator and IP holder of the Cadence Tactile Tablet technology. The team combines lifetimes of experience in engineering, product development, entrepreneurship, and accessibility.
The Cadence tablet is a tablet computer for the blind. It features 384 rapidly refreshing Braille dots that form a rectangular “screen” that users can touch and read. Up to four Cadence tablets can be combined to form larger screen sizes, offering unprecedented access to tactile graphics, animation, and multi-line Braille reading. Cadence is the beginning of a revolution in STEM and Braille education, workplace comfort, standardized testing, and leisure time for millions of blind and visually-impaired individuals worldwide.
Speaking about the platform, Founder & CEO of Tactile Engineering, Dave Schleppenbach, said:
The company’s Cadence tactile tablet allows readers to access up to eight lines of electronic Braille cells. Students, professionals and leisure readers can use Cadence to navigate long equations and access technical diagrams. Cadence can be used as an e-reader, a graphing calculator and an image viewer. 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.
Schleppenbach further said:
The Purdue Ventures investment and the funding round will allow Tactile Engineering to invest in additional capital equipment, parts and labour to manufacture Cadence in larger quantities. The company has other significant ties to Purdue. 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 an excellent avenue for us to develop accessible content and test results with students.
Purdue Ventures’ investment is part of a larger $1.5 million funding round for Tactile Engineering, including investments from Elevate Ventures, Queen City Angels and private individuals.
Headquartered in Lafayette, the startup aims to develop and manufacture an affordable tactile graphics tablet for use by blind and visually impaired (B/VI) individuals around the world.
Associate Director of Purdue Ventures, Riley Gibb, added:
Tactile Engineering is a solid addition to the investment portfolio. Tactile Engineering has strong connections to Purdue University research, 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.
Purdue Ventures manages multiple pools of capital in collaboration with the Purdue University entrepreneurial ecosystem and local corporations, enabling Purdue startups to improve the world. It has invested over $12 million since its formation. The Purdue Startup Fund supports innovation commercialization through early-stage investments.