We first introduced you to the then 12-year-old app developer Emma Yang about a year and a half ago. She had just unveiled the prototype of an app for Alzheimer’s patients and their families, an Alzheimer’s app called Timeless. Since then Emma has put together a team of mentors and advisers and launched an Indiegogo campaign to fund the next round of development
We caught up with now 14-year-old Emma who is learning some hard lessons about being an entrepreneur. Her Timeless Alzheimer’s app is still under development, but already Emma is looking to expand the possible capabilities of her app even as the work slowed down a little, after all, she’s still a full-time 9th grader and cannot work on her app every day.
But since we last spoke with Emma, she’s picked up more help, including from the Comprehensive Center for Brain Health at Florida Atlantic University, which Emma says has “agreed to be the first site to give the app to their patients and let me use them to get some feedback on it and continue to develop and update it.”
She also has another mentor at a human analytics firm – also in Florida – who is working on the facial recognition aspect of Timeless, which will allow someone with Alzheimer’s to point their phone camera at a person they don’t recognize and the app will be able to say who the person is. And she’s working with the New York chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association on ways to get the app, once it is fully ready, into the hands of those who need it.
Emma says she’s seeking funding to be able to collaborate with more developers:
“When I was first starting off to raise money I was suggested crowdfunding especially because this is a problem that touches a lot of people. The hope was that by having a public crowdsourcing campaign I would be able to garner a lot more support and a lot more awareness for people to not only donate money but share this with their friends and family and raise the awareness about Timeless. That’s the reason I went for the Indiegogo campaign.”
The campaign shows a goal of $50,000 but to get to the end of the first phase and put out a pilot app for the first year, Emma says $20,000 should do it:
“I think every day it’s getting closer and closer to the reality of releasing the app. Now I actually have a working version of a prototype that I’m working on developing to an app.”
Emma says, “I think it’s really been taken a lot further since a year and a half ago, in terms of getting into the hands of real patients.”
Not that she’d be stopping there with her Alzheimer’s app:
“I’ve got a whole collection of things I want to implement in the future, for example, adding music to the app or putting in a trivia module to kind of quiz patients about information they’re prone to forgetting, things like that, and integrating with voice as well to make it even easier and more accessible at home. So I think that part of the process of developing the app has been seeing what else I want to add to it in the future.”
One thing would be translating the app, so her grandmother, who was the inspiration for the need for an Alzheimer’s app, would be able to use it:
“She’s living in Hong Kong and I call her all the time to talk to her about this, and even though she’s not using the app right now she’s one of the reasons why I actually wanted to make more functionality in the future because she doesn’t speak English, she speaks Chinese with me, and so I want to get the app translated in the future so that language is not a barrier.”
Emma’s not looking for commercial success for her Alzheimer’s app, although she says when it is publicly available it would likely be on a subscription basis, perhaps a couple of dollars a month, for those who could afford it. But for others, Emma says, “I also want to make it more accessible to people no matter whether they have enough money to pay for that so I’m also going [to have] a nonprofit model where the proceeds from the subscribers will be able to go towards those who can’t necessarily afford it.”
Emma hopes to roll out a working model of the app over the summer, get feedback from the pilot program, and work on stage two in the second half of 2018:
“I’m trying in the beginning for the user base to be mainly the family, friends and patients at the brain health center, and the doctors I’ve been working with, but I don’t have exact numbers worked out right now. I hope to grow from there and that’s like word of mouth, marketing, getting it out there with the Alzheimer’s community and the patients I start off with at the brain health center.”
While there are other apps designed to help people with Alzheimer’s and their families, Emma says they tend to only cover one aspect, such as music or a calendar, and she wants Timeless, her Alzheimer’s app, to combine a lot of useful features and functions:
“I see the culmination and consolidation of all those into one really simple tool that includes everything from communication with family and friends, looking at photos, and contacting them into kind of like one area for Alzheimer’s patients to go to when they want to do those kinds of things which is the reason why I want to continue to add more features in the future because I want Timeless to be based on that.”
Emma says, “It’s really difficult for Alzheimer’s patients to remember where to go for what and so Timeless is the one hub for all those kinds of things in your life, I think it’d be a really useful tool for Alzheimer’s patients.
And she’s not looking to be bought out by some investor or company:
“Not right now. I’m still planning on being the person that’s working on this project and that’s because I really am passionate about coding and developing apps. So I still want in the future to be working on this app, but one thing I am interested in is whether we can work with another organization to have the app or aim to create an app similar to this, but to co-develop it with them to support the maintenance of the app in the future and to make this a bigger thing and raise more awareness about it.”
And Emma Yang says she’s even more excited now than she was when Timeless was more of a concept for an Alzheimer’s app than the workings of an actual app:
“Seeing that this is so close to being beneficial to patients is actually really exciting to me because something that I had an idea of a year and a half ago can actually help people. People have come forward to me and said this will be really useful for someone I know or myself. I think it’s become even more exciting to me to see this is actually something to be useful and something that will become a reality soon.”
Here’s Emma talking about her Alzheimer’s app and the reason behind it: