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.