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Tactile, translating printed text to Braille, wins MIT $100K Pitch

Birth control reminder app and device take audience choice award.

By Kara Baskin  |  November 8, 2017

tactile-winners

From left: MIT Entrepreneur in Residence Dipul Patel, Podimetrics CEO Jon Bloom, MIT $100K executive director Bar Kafri, and Tactile co-founders Grace Li and Charlene Xia.

Why It Matters

The MIT $100K Pitch Competition recognizes new MIT technologies and businesses every year. The latest alumni convert printed text to Braille and help users take birth control on time.

Tactile won the $5,000 top prize in the MIT $100K Pitch Competition for technology that converts printed text to Braille. The portable device is designed to help sight-deprived individuals read short texts like agendas, printed receipts, and mail.

“There’s a great need for such a device. A lot of printed texts don’t have Braille translation, and there are 39 million visually impaired people,” said Tactile co-founder Grace Li, SB ’17. “We’re starting out in the U.S. market working with public institutions like libraries and schools, plus centers like the Carroll Center for the Blind and the Perkins School for the Blind. Boston has been a great place to develop our prototype, because there’s such a strong community for the visually impaired.”

Her team is now beta testing the product in the Boston area and will use the prize money to refine and streamline the prototype, intending to make the device even smaller.

The MIT $100K Pitch Competition, held Nov. 7 on campus, is the first of three annual contests held by the MIT $100K Entrepreneurship Competition. The grand prize winner of the third competition, held in the spring, receives the $100,000 prize.

This year, 20 teams competed by presenting a 90-second elevator pitch, followed by a round of judges’ questions.

Spectators also voted on their phones for an audience choice award. A smart device and app duo, aam, won that $2,000 prize for technology for a birth control pill blister pack inserted into a smart sleeve. The technology reminds its user to take the pill at a specific time and sends reminders to her phone if she forgets. It is helmed by co-founder Aagya Mathur, MBA ’18.

The next phase of the MIT $100K is Accelerate, where teams develop a prototype with mentor guidance and customer research. Ten finalists will make public presentations this winter for a $10,000 prize and a $3,000 audience choice award.