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Success Story

Tatum Robotics is developing the first assistive communication tool for DeafBlind people. DeafBlind people can neither hear nor see. They use a tactile form of sign language, which they understand by placing a hand over the dominant hand of a signing partner while their signing partner signs. They understand the entirety of the language through the top of the dominant hand this way. Our robot translates English into tactile American Sign Language (ASL) output. The product is a compliant, anthropomorphic signing hand/wrist system. The system is capable of fingerspelling accurately and quickly, with the future goal of integrating the technology into an armature system capable of actuating complex signed sentences. The Tatum device can be connected to eBooks, emails, news sources, and texting services, making all of these sources accessible to DeafBlind people independently and in their preferred language for the first time. Established speech-to-text services will enable communication between the DeafBlind and non-signers without the need for an interpreter for every interaction. Tatum Robotics’ aim is to bring an end to the isolation DeafBlind people experience every day. Our technology will introduce greater opportunities to the DeafBlind for work, education, and socialization.


  • In the past 12 – 18 months, Tatum Robotics has achieved many major milestones. Our first major milestone in that time was winning a grant opportunity from the National Science Foundation (NSF). This grant consisted of $256,000 and funded much of our 2023 R&D progress.

  • In November 2023, Founder & CEO Samantha Johnson was named a Forbes 30 Under 30 Class of 2024:Consumer Tech. This tremendous privilege puts Samantha’s work under a spotlight for anyone interested in upcoming technology and access for disabled people.

  • Also in November 2023, Tatum Robotics was selected for the Massachusetts Next Generation(MassNextGen) Initiative through the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center (MLSC). This program supported Tatum Robotics with $97,000 starting at the beginning of 2024 in addition to mentoring meetings to propel the business.

  • For the last two years, Tatum Robotics has hired co-ops on 6-month cycles to the team. At the end of 2023, we brought on our first full-time mechanical engineer. This engineer leads co-ops, works on long-term design developments for the product, and interacts directly using ASL with our DeafBlind consultants to gather feedback.

  • In 2023, Tatum Robotics was fortunate to introduce our product to U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren and Boston’s Mayor, Michelle Wu. In addition, we were also visited by Massachusetts Department of Education Secretary Patrick Tutwiler.

  • Our product has done some traveling in the last 18 months, as well. Tatum Robotics’ Linguist presented research at the National Association of the Deaf (NAD) biennial conference in Florida in 2022. Founder and CEO Samantha Johnson attended the CSUN Conference in March 2024, which is a major assistive technology conference for

    showcasing innovations of all types. There, Samantha met Haben Girma and Mussie Gebre, two DeafBlind powerhouses famous in the community, in addition to DeafBlind friends from across the States.

  • Tatum Robotics was featured in two news broadcasts—Voice of America and CBS—in 2023. Both give the company a mainstream spotlight, introducing the technology to the general public. For those who have never met a DeafBlind person, we are hopeful that our broadcasts have shown them how important assistive technology and disabled access are in daily life.


The impact of the network of mentors and passionate, like-minded entrepreneurs that Tatum Robotics encountered through the Eddies program cannot be understated. Thanks to my time with the 2023 Eddies cohort, I feel more prepared than ever to enter the commercialization stage. Seeing the work of my peers through different stages of business development has taught me the dos and don’ts of the process. Because I am a first-time founder and business owner, being able to follow the examples of others is instrumental to my own leadership style. I am confident that as Tatum Robotics advances to later business stages, I will be able to call on my fellow cohort members for any guidance or direction that I might need.

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