Speech app pulled from App Store that gave 4 year old a voice for the first time

Speech app pulled from App Store that gave 4 year old a voice for the first time

The speech recognition app Speak For Yourself for iPad has given 4 year old Maya Nieder a voice of her own for the first time. Due to a lawsuit concerning several patents, the app has been pulled from the App Store. Her parents worry if the app is removed remotely they may lose their new found communication channel with their daughter.

Speak For Yourself uses augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) communication technology. It has allowed Maya's parents to really get to know her for the first time. This type of hardware and software typically would cost around $5,000. With the iPad and about $300 additional dollars they've been able to actually get to know their daughter's likes, dislikes, and how she's feeling.

“Maya can speak to us, clearly, for the first time in her life. We are hanging on her every word. We’ve learned that she loves talking about the days of the week, is weirdly interested in the weather, and likes to pretend that her toy princesses are driving the bus to school (sometimes) and to work (other times). This app has not only allowed her to communicate her needs, but her thoughts as well. It’s given us the gift of getting to know our child on a totally different level.”

The pending lawsuit is between Heidi LoStracco and Renee Collender, speech pathologists and the creators of Speak for Yourself, and AAC device makers, Prentke Romich Company (PRC) and Semantic Compaction Systems (SCS), who both make AAC hardware. They are claiming that the app infringes on over 100 patents they currently hold. They have requested that Apple remove the app while litigation is pending. LoStracco and Collender have already counter filed claiming that the suit has no basis.

At the moment, we still have the app, securely loaded into her iPad and present in my iTunes account, and Maya remains blissfully unaware that anything has changed. Dave and I, however, know better. We are now shadowed by a huge, impending threat.

While the Nieder family currently has access to the app they worry that if the courts require the app to be pulled indefinitely that Apple may remote pull it and they will lose the only way they currently have to communicate with their daughter.

Source: Nieder family via Techland via Cult of Mac

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Allyson Kazmucha

Senior editor for iMore. I can take apart an iPhone in less than 6 minutes. I also like coffee and Harry Potter more than anyone really should.

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Reader comments

Speech app pulled from App Store that gave 4 year old a voice for the first time


Yet another lawsuit by a large company who's bitching and complaining that someone is giving the public a more cost-effective way to do the same thing their company is doing while raping your wallet to do so. $5000+ vs $300... hummm, who's unethical now and overcharging for no good reason?

The parents are freaking out about nothing. There is zero evidence that it will be remotely removed from their iPad. While Apple has the ability to do this, they have never exercised that ability. Common thought is that they have the kill switch built in to stop a truly bad app such as malware/virus.

You miss the point entirely. Apple reserves the right to do this at their sole discretion, for any reason, at any time, without warning. This means their child's continued communication is in the hands of a corporation, which, though generally well-intentioned, has shown itself inconsistent at best with any App Store related policy. No sane parent is going to risk their child's well-being on those terms.
Regardless of which company is in the wrong, the parents themselves are powerless to impact proceedings in the courtroom, but Apple, at least, has shown itself sensitive to the court of public opinion. The parent's best, only option to take control of this aspect of their child's health is to raise the issue publicly, and make it a PR disaster for all parties involved to remove the App.
They are protecting their child, with the only tool they have at their disposal, and any parent in that situation would do the same thing.

Seriously? So we're going to put money over the ability to help people communicate?
As an autistic adult, this actually sickens me.

You don't need to turn wifi off. There are many many apps that apple has pulled that continue to work fine iOS update after update. Apple simply stops selling the apps, they don't remove them.
The family is NOT overreacting in general, the fact that this very useful app isn't going to be supported/improved/updated, is reason to be upset.

Pulling the app from the store and pulling the app out of their system are completely different ideas. Apple has never pulled an app out of their system but there has also never been a case like this that could legally require them to do so.

Is the family an innocent victim? Yes.
Are there other methods out there besides this app? Yes. While expensive options this is not life or death having the app.
Blame the company who made the app who potentially infringed, not the people seeking their right to a legal remedy.

I'm not a fan of Apple as a corporation, but this story is sensationalized.
If the app does infringe on patents, it should not be sold. Period. Maybe the other options cost a lot more because a lot more development went into them.
Or maybe the claims are baseless. In that case, I can still hardly blame Apple for pulling the app, it's far easier than dealing with any kind of legal paperwork. I'm sure they do it all the time.
However, I DO blame Apple for not giving any other purchase options in their closed ecosystem. With Android they could buy directly from the developer if they'd like and this wouldn't be a story at all.

Your post had me until that last paragraph. Apple isn't being sued, the app developer is. Having another way to get the app on the device has nothing to do with this story.

I realize the role of the parties involved, my point is that if Apple didn't pull the app when requested legal action may have been taken against them. So it was probably easier to do before it came to that, and it is probably pretty common for them to do so.
And again, if this were Android, the party being sued could still provide the app and updates directly to the consumer. Since the consumer would still have access to updates and wouldn't be worried about Apple taking it away, it never would have been a story in the first place. Not sure how you can dispute that, unless I wasn't clear in the first post.
Point being, this headline is sensationalizing by implying Apple is taking away some poor handicapped kid's only way to communicate, but on the other hand Apple put themselves in that position with their refusal to open their platform to other app vendors. So they won't get any sympathy from me.

Actually, while both Apple and Google have a "kill switch" to remotely remove apps from devices, only Google so far has actually used it. This case might force Apple to use it, which is what scares the parents.
Of course, theoretically, the developer could provide the app via some other, more private means on Android. Likewise, they could distribute the App through other channels on iOS (ranging from just sending the parents the Xcode project to just deploying it to them via beta testing provisioning - probably under a different developer account and bundle identifier to avoid detection). Realistically, though, going this route while being sued over infringement would open up a huge legal can of worms for the developers, whether on Android or on iOS, and they very likely wouldn't (and shouldn't) provide the app to the parents "privately" while the lawsuit were pending.
I agree with you in general (even though it is heartbreakingly unfortunate for the family), I just don't agree that the family would be in a better position on Android than they are now on iOS. Either way, if the platform provider hits the kill switch, the app is gone, and on both platforms, it's unrealistic to believe the family could legally get the app via other means directly from the developer (even though on both platforms it's technically possible). And of the two platform vendors, Google is the only one to actually have thrown the kill switch. Apple didn't, not even over the VLC debacle (I bought VLC back then and can still download it from the store; you just can't buy it anymore).

Yes, you are probably right that I am unrealistic, but the tone of the devolopers make it sound like they are still willing to sell the app. Probably easy to say that when you're not the one being asked to stop selling it under threat of further legal consequences. The option would be there in Android if the devoloper wanted it, which may or may not apply in this particular case.

Wow that's a convincing argument. You sure showed me.
BTW genius, the word you were looking for is "too". Hate to be that guy, but some posts deserve it.

While the article, the case surrounding the issue, and all the comments have been really quite interesting, I'm left wondering what sort of condition Maya Nieder has that is preventing her from engaging in verbal conversation?

Or. They can download the app file from their iTunes account just in case Apple at some point will be legally forced to wipe it out. That way they can always have the app. Forever. No matter what happens in court.

No, they can't. Not as easily, at least. Apple, like Google, has a remote kill switch with which they can remotely delete apps from your devices as soon as they connect to their servers. Google has used this ability in the past, Apple hasn't yet.
One could probably circumvent this by either disabling the data connectivity on the iPad (impractical, since the app likely needs an internet connection to function), or block Apple IPs on the home network for the device (harder to do, and since Apple has never used the kill switch, we don't really know what to block).

As the father of 2 autistic children, I feel for the Neiders. However, this has far further reaching implications. I know for a fact that many special needs schools have begun rolling out Ipads with accessibility apps to their students. The reasoning is sound: $5k for one of the specialty devices that before now were the only option, or $400 for an ipad plus a couple hundred more for a ton of apps.
I can understand the suing company and their patents. Still, the parent in me finds it hard to be sympathetic to a business that's charging 10x more than a device that provides the same services (while being more flexible and capable).

Sounds like ONE of the perfect reasons for jailbreaking. You can simply toggle off the killswitch from SBSettings. I for one have been using the feature since my first device (iPod 2G).
No one but me should be able to take things off of my device. Hooray to Apple for having the foresight to implement a killswitch, but boo for not letting people make decisions for themselves.