Samantha Johnson is the Founder and CEO of Tatum Robotics, a Boston-based company that develops assistive technology for people with deafblindness. The company’s groundbreaking innovation is an anthropomorphic robotic arm that enables DeafBlind individuals, who can neither hear nor see, to achieve independent communication through tactile signing. A beta launch of the product is scheduled for later this summer.

The Business Challenge

The project presented a two-fold challenge to the College of Engineering student team: mapping signs from native DeafBlind signers onto the robot and developing an interface that allows users to interact with the device without relying on sight or hearing.

Thanks to funding from the Lab for Inclusive Entrepreneurship’s U.S. Economic Development Administration grant, we were able to purchase an API-integrated webcam to support the project.

The Project Outcomes

To address this challenge, the students focused on motion tracking, gesture recognition, and sign segmentation. They utilized various camera equipment and wrote their own code to calibrate the cameras, accurately map key points for signing, and create a sign segmentation system.

The Business Owner’s Takeaway

“I was amazed by the student team’s remarkable passion and dedication. They went above and beyond their coursework, taking the initiative to learn some American Sign Language and fully immerse themselves in the project. The experience was overwhelmingly positive, and we plan to continue the collaboration with student teams from Northeastern in the future.”