As part of our ongoing effort to promote U.S. Manufacturing, each month we will highlight products and companies that provide innovative and unique products that make a difference in people’s lives. We encourage our readership to both buy and promote products Made in America. Here’s our hip find for the month:
In 1983, Gary Killiany was an undergraduate engineering student at Carnegie-Mellon University and volunteer at the Rehabilitation Institute of Pittsburgh. The convergence of these two interests led him to create a device that would allow a young woman with cerebral palsy that he’d met at the Rehabilitation Institute to “speak” for the first time in her life. With guidance from Professor Mark Friedman, Killiany created the EyeTyper, a tool that allowed the woman to compose and speak messages by moving her eyes.
Killiany and Friedman teamed up with Tilden Bennett to form Sentient Systems Technology, Inc. It was then that the journey of becoming the world’s leading provider of communication and education solutions for individuals with significant speech, language and learning disabilities began. The trio commercialized the EyeTyper to bring the gift of communication to the millions of Americans unable to speak due to conditions such as cerebral palsy, autism, traumatic brain injury, stroke, and ALS. This fledgling company with just one product and three employees evolved into what is now DynaVox Mayer-Johnson.
Today, DynaVox Mayer-Johnson employs more than 350 people worldwide and offers a portfolio of communication and education solutions to consumers around the world. The history of DynaVox Mayer-Johnson is marked by several revolutionary innovation and industry firsts. The timeline below outlines the story of DynaVox’s beginnings, their role in moving the augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) industry forward, and the future of their commitment.
THE EARLY YEARS
- Three generations of the EyeTyper were marketed
- The patent for the technology was sold to the US Navy and proceeds from the sale were reinvested into the company as its leaders sought to provide AAC solutions that would benefit more people.
1990 – 1995
TRANSFORMATION OF THE AAC INDUSTRY BEGINS
- In 1991 the first DynaVox-branded products begin shipping to customers. These products were the first AAC products to feature touch screens with dynamic displays that change with the selections of the user.
- Word and grammar prediction that allowed individuals using the original DynaVox products to compose messages more quickly was introduced in 1993.
- During this time, the company also distributed the DigiVox, an AAC tool combining recorded speech with changeable paper overlays.
1996 – 2000
TECHNOLOGY SPEEDS THINGS UP
- Technological advances came at unprecedented speed during these years, allowing our engineers to create a variety of revolutionary products.
- In 1996 the DynaVox 2, DynaVox 2c, and DynaVox Software for Mac and DOS computers were introduced. These were the first AAC products to feature built-in universal remote control units. The DynaVox 2c was also the first dynamic display AAC device with a color screen.
- The company name was changed to DynaVox Systems Inc. after a merger with Sunrise Medical in 1998. The name was changed to DynaVox Systems LLC in 1999.
- The Dynamo, the world’s first AAC device to marry digitized speech with a dynamic display debuted in 1999
- The Dynamo also set the stage for international expansion.
- In the spring of 2000, the DynaVox 3100 and DynaMyte 3100 were introduced.
2001 – 2005
A PERIOD OF RAPID GROWTH
- Medicare begins covering AAC devices beginning January 1, 2001, thanks to a lobbying effort spearheaded by DynaVox.
- The DynaWrite, the first keyboard-based device in the DynaVox family of products, is introduced in 2002.
- The fourth generation of DynaVox-branded products, the DynaVox DV4 and MT4, are introduced in 2003.
- In 2004, DynaVox acquires Mayer-Johnson and Enkidu Research Inc., and separates from Sunrise Medical.
- That same year, the company introduced the MightyMo and MiniMo, a new line of robust dynamic display, digitized devices featuring color screens.
2006 and Beyond
A PROMISING FUTURE FOR AAC AND DYNAVOX MAYER-JOHNSON
- The fifth generation of the DynaVox speech communication solutions was introduced in early 2007. Consisting of the V+ and Vmax, this line featured a fully functional integrated computer that allows the user to communicate in person, on the phone, via text message and e-mail.
- The M3, a robust dynamic display, digitized device, is introduced in late 2007.
- That same year the small, exceptionally portable Palmtop3 and iChat3 were introduced.
- In 2008 the EyeMax, a new eye control system that provides greater independence to individuals living with speech and physical challenges accompanying conditions such as ALS, cerebral palsy, stroke, traumatic brain injury and spinal cord injury was introduced.
- AdaptedLearning.com, a free online resource that allows for the sharing of adapted curriculum created with the Boardmaker Software Family products, is introduced in 2008.
- In 2009, DynaVox Mayer-Johnson acquired the assets of BlinkTwice, the innovative developer and manufacturer of the Tango speech communication device for children with speech and language challenges. The Tango was added to the DynaVox line of speech communication solutions.
- The company set a new standard for handheld speech solutions with the introduction of the DynaVox Xpress in August 2009. Marrying comprehensive AAC tools with a variety of mainstream communication features, the Xpress delivers powerful communication capabilities for individual living with the effects of stroke, autism, Down syndrome, traumatic brain injury, aphasia, ALS and apraxia of speech.
Between 1990 and 2000 the increase in technology and constant research being done by DynaVox Mayer-Johnsons’ engineers allowed for a huge growth in the amount of products that were being distributed and had a significant impact on what their products could do to help those with disabilities that limited their ability to speak.
DynaVox has been creating, developing, testing, marketing, and producing newer and better products that help people all over the world to communicate things to their loved ones that were once thought to be impossible. While DynaVox has certainly changed and evolved in order to better help people all over the world, they say that the one thing that hasn’t diminished is their “commitment to giving individuals challenged by speech, language and learning disabilities the tools they need to achieve their goals.”
Tyler Skibenes is the Sales Associate at Accelerated Buy Sell, Inc. as well as a contributing author to the blog. He helps spread the word about the “Accelerated Group of Companies” that provides tools and services to help manufacturers grow and exit strategies to maximize dollars when they are ready to retire or sell their manufacturing business. Accelerated’s group of companies that provide services to the manufacturing industry includes:
www.AcceleratedBuySell.com – Provides Online Industrial Auction Services, Used Equipment Auctions, Capital Equipment Auctions, Plant Liquidations, Industrial Plant Cleanout Services, Used Machinery Location Services, Certified Machine Tool and Equipment Appraisals, and more.
www.AcceleratedMfgBrokers.com – Specializes in Manufacturing Business Brokerage and Mergers and Acquisitions. We help manufacturers develop exit strategies to maximize retirement dollars, and successful manufacturers expand through acquisition of other manufacturing companies, product lines and customer lists. Manufacturing Companies for sale throughout the United States are listed on this site.
www.AcceleratedRE.com – Provides Industrial Real Estate Brokerage Services, Online Real Estate Auctions, Sealed Bid Real Estate Auctions and complete industrial facility cleanout services.
www.IgniteMfg.com – Provides funding for products made in the USA, and engineering/manufacturing educational needs through Crowd Funding.
www.MfgWebSolutions.com – Provides web development and social media services for manufacturers at under-market rates.
Tyler Skibenes is a contributing author to:
blog.AcceleratedBuySell.com - A site that provides the latest manufacturing news, statistics and opinion. It also provides information on how to grow a manufacturing business, and what to do if you are a manufacturing company that needs to close.