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Apple Yanks Toddler's Speech-Enabling App 573

Posted by Soulskill
from the like-taking-candy-apps-from-a-baby dept.
theodp writes "TIME reports that four-year-old Maya Nieder's speech-enabling 'Speak for Yourself' app was yanked from the App Store by Apple due to an unresolved patent dispute at the behest of Prentke Romich Company (PRC) and Semantic Compaction Systems (SCS), makers of designated communication devices (not iPad apps). 'The issue of whether or not Apple should have pulled Speak for Yourself from the App Store before the case was decided is trickier. Obviously, Apple would rather be safe than sorry and remove a potentially problematic app instead of risking legal action. The problem, however, is that this isn’t some counterfeit version of Angry Birds.' 'My daughter cannot speak without this app,' writes Maya's mom, Dana. 'She cannot ask us questions. She cannot tell us that she's tired, or that she wants yogurt for lunch. She cannot tell her daddy that she loves him.' If you're so inclined, Dana suggests you drop a note to appstorenotices@apple.com."
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Apple Yanks Toddler's Speech-Enabling App

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  • But she still can... (Score:5, Informative)

    by Bad Ad (729117) on Wednesday June 13, 2012 @08:13AM (#40307337)
    But its still on her device - so she still can do all those things. If she syncs her phone/ipad with itunes, she even has her own back up of the app and can reinstall it just fine.
    • by SJHillman (1966756) on Wednesday June 13, 2012 @08:23AM (#40307417)

      A few notes:
      1) This is not the only way she can communicate, simply the cheapest $299 + iPad). The first paragraph of the article says that much. Later on it does mention that the iPad app is the only one the girl took to right away.
      2) Although it's still on her iPad, they worry that it won't get app updates and that an iOS update may break it
      3) The article says Slashdot broke the news, and now Slashdot is pointing at the article that is pointing at Slashdot...

      • by theodp (442580) on Wednesday June 13, 2012 @08:33AM (#40307491)

        I think TIME is referring to Slashdot's March story on Software Patents Not So Abstract When the Lawsuits Hit Home [slashdot.org]. The yanking of the app from the App Store is a more recent development.

      • by Bad Ad (729117) on Wednesday June 13, 2012 @08:37AM (#40307523)
        So do not update your iOS. Keep your iDevice how it is right now. If its that important to you, treat it as a non up-datable speech tool. It will work as it does right now...
      • by jpate (1356395) on Wednesday June 13, 2012 @09:54AM (#40308327) Homepage

        A few notes: 1) This is not the only way she can communicate, simply the cheapest $299 + iPad). The first paragraph of the article says that much. Later on it does mention that the iPad app is the only one the girl took to right away.

        The parents tried several much more expensive alternatives [techdirt.com] (including devices by the plaintiffs), but they were all too heavy [pcworld.com] or too difficult [digitaltrends.com] for an illiterate four-year-old to operate. They're not just going for the cheapest option

      • by deathguppie (768263) on Wednesday June 13, 2012 @10:03AM (#40308431)

        My wife is a speech language pathologist. Years ago I remember looking at a Prentke Romich tablet she brought home to customize the interface for a student. I couldn't help but think how simple it was for a device that cost around $3k. Just for the basic version from there they go up to nearly $10k.(yes I know there is a bit into putting together the icon sets and sounds.. I'm speaking relatively) Prentke Romich sells to hospitals, and other major medical institutions that have need for such a device, and can afford it, they do not sell to individuals per se, simply because the average family cannot afford one. They charge a lot of money for them. I very much doubt they are concerned with the "actual" needs of people as much as they are their pocket book.

    • But its still on her device - so she still can do all those things. If she syncs her phone/ipad with itunes, she even has her own back up of the app and can reinstall it just fine.

      TFA points out that it could still stop working with an iOS update.

      • And if the company supplying it really cared, they could include the girls iPad in the list of 100 devices they are allowed to locally sign and distribute for.

  • by yabos (719499) on Wednesday June 13, 2012 @08:14AM (#40307341)
    An app being yanked from the AppStore doesn't mean it gets removed from your device.
    • by Kurlon (130049) on Wednesday June 13, 2012 @08:21AM (#40307401)

      Depends on the level of yank Apple applies. They do have a remote kill option as noted in the past.

    • by theodp (442580)

      For now, but the parents' fear is what the future will bring. Will the app be remotely revoked? Will it be compatible with future devices and versions of iOS? Will there be any support/enhancements for the app (no App Store presence presumably means no bug fixes or enhancements)? Also, while the app is there currently for Dana, it's not available any longer for others who could benefit from it.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by BasilBrush (643681)

        Will she get cancer? Will she get knocked down by a bus? Will a meteorite hit the house?

        Also, while the app is there currently for Dana, it's not available any longer for others who could benefit from it.

        This is not the only product on the market. It just happens to be the one she chose.

        Cut the supermarket tabloid emotional sensationalism.

  • Side Loading (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Nerdfest (867930) on Wednesday June 13, 2012 @08:18AM (#40307369)

    Don't you wish you could just decide for yourself what you could were allowed to install on your device?

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by jbeaupre (752124)

      No. I don't need to wish. Nor do I need to wish to reflash with 3rd party firmware. Or wish to run ad filtering software. Or wish to modify program access limits. Or wish to over/under clock my device. Or ... or ... or.

      Wishing is for people who can't.

      No, my wish is for ICS firmware to be released for my device.

      • I sacrificed video recording, camera, hardware acceleration, gps, and some other stuff when Samsung forgot about my device. The Galaxy S never reached South America. I had to settle for a Galaxy 5. When one day, my carrier publishes that it's available now. They sent me the device. It looks like a Galaxy S, performs like a Galaxy S, the box says Galaxy S, etc. But it's not a Galaxy S, It's a Galaxy SL (i9003 instead of i9000). For some stupid reason Samsung made a device that is actually a bit better than t

    • by Nerdfest (867930)

      Of course, I also wish I "could were allowed" to haz a grammar, or read my posts before I submitted them.

      • by Cow Jones (615566)

        Do you also wish that's, that you, you had, you'd, you would, you could, you do, you wi-, you once, you, you could do so, you, you do, you could, you, you want, you want them to do you so much you could do anything [youtube.com]?

        Amazingly on topic in a story about speech impaired toddlers...

        I'm going to hell.

  • Bad karma (Score:5, Funny)

    by mseeger (40923) on Wednesday June 13, 2012 @08:19AM (#40307379)

    If the Buddhists are right, some patent lawyers and company executives are looking forward to an reincarnation as a pile of petrified sh*t at the bottom of the ocean.ï

    There is no way they can make up that amount of bad karma.

    • by Chrisq (894406) on Wednesday June 13, 2012 @08:56AM (#40307689)

      If the Buddhists are right, some patent lawyers and company executives are looking forward to an reincarnation as a pile of petrified sh*t at the bottom of the ocean.ï

      Or even worse than that, as another patent lawyer

    • "There is no good or bad karma, there is only karma".

      I realise this is slightly OT, but it annoys me a little to have Buddhism replaced by cartoon-Buddhism. Buddhism is not Christianity. It's medieval Catholicism in which the patent lawyers and company executives would spend eternity in a nasty place. For traditional Buddhists, any and all engaging with the illusion that is the world of the five senses is karma.

      Modern relativism has largely obsoleted religious sanctions - and I'm not about to regurgitate Du

      • by jpapon (1877296)

        It's medieval Catholicism in which the patent lawyers and company executives would spend eternity in a nasty place.

        Actually, in medieval Catholicism patent lawyers could have simply paid for an indulgence with some of the money they earned committing the sin. Pretty slick system really; one gets to do whatever they want as long as the Church gets to wet their beak.

  • Still on the device (Score:5, Informative)

    by Bogtha (906264) on Wednesday June 13, 2012 @08:19AM (#40307381)

    She cannot ask us questions. She cannot tell us that she's tired, or that she wants yogurt for lunch. She cannot tell her daddy that she loves him.

    This partial quote is extremely misleading. Apple simply removing something from the App Store does not delete it from devices it is already installed on. They can still use the application. That is part of a hypothetical "What if Apple remote wiped it from our device" which has not happened.

    • by bourdux (1609219)
      FTFA: While she already has the app on her iPad, she worries about the fact that Speak for Yourself can’t send out updates and that new iOS updates from Apple could interfere with how the app functions. It's not about wiping the app, it's about updates.
      • by unimacs (597299)
        It's a legitimate concern and a good reason not to update the version of IOS on that iPad. And if this was an Android platform we were talking about and the app developer was legally forced to quit developing the software, you'd have the same issue. An Android update could break the software.
      • by BasilBrush (643681) on Wednesday June 13, 2012 @10:05AM (#40308467)

        New iOS versions don't typically make existing software stop working. But if it's that important to her then she doesn't have to update the OS.

        Really, we're supposed to be pandering to emotional fears of what may happen in the future? To make an exception to the law on the basis of it?

        Ridiculous.

  • This is still in court right? Innocent until proven guilty? What would apple do with Miranda??? /Rant
    • by SJHillman (1966756) on Wednesday June 13, 2012 @08:26AM (#40307443)

      Innocent until proven guilty is criminal law... which I don't believe patent suits fall under.

      • But surely as no legal decision has been made apple could not be held accountable unless they continued to sell the software for an unreasonable period after the decision had been rendered.
      • by v1 (525388) on Wednesday June 13, 2012 @09:02AM (#40307747) Homepage Journal

        Innocent until proven guilty is criminal law... which I don't believe patent suits fall under.

        Actually patents are polar opposite. If I file a patent dispute against you, the burden of proof lies with you, you must prove your innocence or I win. And there's very little teeth in the ways for you to recover additional damages from me to cover your defense expenses, the inconvenience, the time your product was pulled off the market. That's the other fun thing, while you are trying to prove your innocence, I can get the govt to pull your product off the market so you don't have any money coming in to spend on lawyers for the ~18 months it'll take. Only the big businesses have those kinds of reserves. Even if you do win, you're down a year and a half of income and have lost a lot of market share that you'll have a very hard time getting back since the new customers have been buying from someone else due to lack of you as an option.

        Combine that with near rubber-stamp patent reviews on overly-broad wording, and you have the mess that is the current patent system.

    • by TimHunter (174406) on Wednesday June 13, 2012 @08:32AM (#40307485)
      Apple is not a court and App Store policies are not the law. Due process does not apply.
  • Stephen Hawking (Score:5, Insightful)

    by rodrigoandrade (713371) on Wednesday June 13, 2012 @08:22AM (#40307413)

    He's the greatest mind of our time, very famous around the world, has millions of pounds in the bank, the best medical care money can buy, etc.

    Yet he refuses to upgrade the archaic system that allows him to spak.

    This is exactly why. You just don't trust something that important to a fly-by-night company that sells their wares through the Apple Store, of all places.

    • Re:Stephen Hawking (Score:4, Insightful)

      by SJHillman (1966756) on Wednesday June 13, 2012 @08:28AM (#40307463)

      I believe one of the reasons he refuses to upgrade the system is because he now considerings it "his" voice and a new system would have a different voice. He sees at as part of him, which is understandable considering it practically replaces the functions of not just his voice, but also his hands. The fact that it's worked well for him for so long is likely part of the "if it ain't broke" mentality.

    • Re:Stephen Hawking (Score:5, Insightful)

      by jimicus (737525) on Wednesday June 13, 2012 @09:02AM (#40307741)

      Historically, devices to help speech and hearing-impaired people to communicate were fantastically expensive. Mainly because they comprised a lot of custom-built hardware that simply doesn't sell in sufficient quantities to get mass production economies of scale.

      You needed to be rich and/or have some sort of a connection to an organisation that would fund such a unit for you. Make no mistake, if Stephen Hawking hadn't been blessed with the incredible good fortune to be a genius - and if he hadn't already started to establish himself as an excellent physicist before his ALS reached the point whereby he had difficulty with speech - it's much less likely he'd have had access to the sophisticated technology that allows him to communicate as early as he did.

      The iPad, however, is a complete game-changer here. It's truly a disruptive technology [wikipedia.org] - suddenly, reasonably sturdy hardware with a touch-screen that's large enough for someone who hasn't (for whatever reason) got particularly good hand/eye co-ordination can be had for under £400. Pair it with appropriate software and maybe some sort of case and you've got a complete solution for under £1,000.

      Yes, the app's expensive. But the whole lot is still a fraction the price of a traditional solution.

      I'm not surprised the developers are in court. The companies who produce the custom-built equipment are probably terrified that their entire business model is in the process of evaporating and they'll be left with a product that is basically unsellable.

    • Re:Stephen Hawking (Score:4, Insightful)

      by xorsyst (1279232) on Wednesday June 13, 2012 @09:27AM (#40308007) Journal

      He has the best medical care money can buy

      Isn't all his medical care paid for by the National Health Service?

  • by spagthorpe (111133) on Wednesday June 13, 2012 @08:37AM (#40307527)

    "the problem, however, is that this isn’t some counterfeit version of Angry Birds."

    This cracks me up. Angry Birds was a pretty solid ripoff of "Crush The Castle." At least CtC authors acknowledged their inspiration from "Castle Clout." Pulling anything imitating Angry Birds is pure BS.

  • Teach her to sign (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Hentes (2461350) on Wednesday June 13, 2012 @08:42AM (#40307581)

    Seriously, if the kid is mute she should have been taught sign language from day one, then she wouldn't be in the position of being unable to communicate at the age of three.

    • Re:Teach her to sign (Score:4, Interesting)

      by nblender (741424) on Wednesday June 13, 2012 @09:09AM (#40307817)

      Agreed. We started teaching our son ASL when he was 6mos. He signed his first sign at 8mos (milk). By a year, he was telling us what he wanted to eat at mealtime and asking questions like "where is my bear?".. Even after he became verbal and even today (almost 11 yo) he still uses some of his retained ASL to communicate when his mouth is full or when he's too far away to yell ("Mom! 5 more minutes!")...

    • by green1 (322787) on Wednesday June 13, 2012 @09:38AM (#40308129)

      When someone is unable to communicate at all, you advocate a method that allows them to only communicate with select people (those who know sign language) rather than the option she has now which allows her to communicate with a much larger group of people (those who know English)

      Why limit her?

  • Four-year-old's app? (Score:5, Informative)

    by Sarten-X (1102295) on Wednesday June 13, 2012 @08:42AM (#40307585) Homepage

    So the app was written by a toddler, right? No, it was two speech pathologists, Heidi LoStracco and Renee Collender. So it was funded by the four-year-old? No again. So it's the only way she speaks, at least? Nope, just the one she likes the best.

    This headline, most of the summary, and the majority of TFA are an appeal to emotion to cloud what's ultimately a bog-standard legal issue. The app's future sale and distribution has been blocked, just like Galaxy tablets, XBoxes, iPads, and many other products that are banned from sale until patent issues are worked out. The point of the story (I guess) is to point out that patent litigation affects innocent bystanders, but this is nothing new, and I personally find the intense spin disgusting. Somehow, the fact that a four-year-old uses this app supposedly makes it okay to copy someone else's research and development? What about the researcher at Prentke Romich whose income depends on the company's speech hardware, who has a toddler at home to feed? What about the toddler whose lawyer parents are working on this case?

    Won't somebody please stop thinking of the children?

    • I agree and I think it could be written more from the point of view that idiotic patent disputes hurt regular people and the progress of tech in general, but again this article is being written for the plebeians, not people who know what is actually going on behind the mask that the MSM puts into place.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 13, 2012 @09:03AM (#40307749)

      The spin is necessary.

      If you want "ordinary people" to understand why a walled garden controlled by a corporate monolith might not always be a good idea, this is an excellent story. If you want "ordinary people" to understand the stupidity of software patents, this is also an excellent story.

      If you would like to see software patents stifle all creativity in the tech industry, and don't like the concept of people being able to own what they paid for, then I can see why you would dislike this story.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      There's no real research here, only product development. Putting icons on a screen that make a device play back a recorded message when pushed. Not innovative at all, yet extremely useful for anyone who can't otherwise speak.

      The real reason for this lawsuit is not to protect R&D, but to protect a racket that hurts kids and tax payers alike. The alternative that these companies sell are $10,000 devices that don't work as well as an ipad+$299 in software ($1,000 total). The only reason they can sell t

    • The app's future sale and distribution has been blocked, just like Galaxy tablets, XBoxes, iPads, and many other products that are banned from sale until patent issues are worked out.

      The difference is that in this case the court evidently didn't order Apple to stop sales or distribution which would be the case for what you're referring to when you talk about other products that are banned from sale.

    • by LordLucless (582312) on Wednesday June 13, 2012 @10:11AM (#40308529)

      The app's future sale and distribution has been blocked, just like Galaxy tablets, XBoxes, iPads, and many other products that are banned from sale until patent issues are worked out.

      Except it hasn't. The court never ordered the apps sales and distribution blocked - Apple did. This is just another example of why walled gardens are bad, particularly when the gardener likes to take it upon themselves to act as judge, jury and app-executioner.

  • by l0ungeb0y (442022) on Wednesday June 13, 2012 @09:45AM (#40308213) Homepage Journal

    Why should we be flooding Apple's inbox with requests to put the App back in the AppStore?
    By doing so, they expose themselves to legal liability and potential lawsuits.

    It seems that if you are angry about this and wanted to see this app back in iTMS, you'd write the software creators and patent claimant urging them to settle their differences fairly and amicably in the interests of the consumer. iTMS will promptly put the app back online when instructed to do so and can be assured they will not be sued for doing so.

  • "Journalism" (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Quiet_Desperation (858215) on Wednesday June 13, 2012 @10:29AM (#40308715)

    o Two companies have legal dispute over some speech thing.
    o Apple is asked to pull app until legal dispute is settled.
    o Apple: (shrug) OK. (pulls app) (App remains on iPads that downloaded it)
    o Media: "ZOMFG!!1! APPLE DESTROYS THE ***LIFE*** OF CHILD WITH HANDICAP AND DRIVES MOTHER TO MISERY AND MADE FLUTTERSHY CRY!!!11!2657682365879!!"
    o Slashdot AppleHateSquad: "LOVE ITSELF HAS BEEN OBLITERATED FROM THE ENTIRETY OF THE PAN DIMENSIONAL MULTIVERSE!!!!!"

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