Hi Reddit, I’m Eric Zeiberg and I have developed an app that helps people with speech disabilities. The name of the app is HandySpeech and it is a handwriting to speech application that converts written text into spoken words. The app can speak in 13 languages and in a male or female voice. It’s one-of-the kind application in the Apple app store to convert written words to speech. (This is just a brief overview of what the app does, if you want more info, feel free to ask it in the comments)

My sister Julie, who is autistic and cannot speak, inspired me. I have lived with her all my life and always though that there must be SOME way I could help her. Also one of my family friends has Muscular Dystrophy and she is the one who suggested making this specific app as there is no other app like this on the App Store or anywhere for that matter. This app can help people with variety of speech impairments due to autism, stuttering, selective mutism and others. However it specifically benefits people who have lost their ability to speak due to disease or surgery: muscular dystrophy, certain types of stroke, throat and oral cancer, Lou Gehrig among others. Typing can be slow and difficult especially for the older population. Handwriting is more natural for most people.

Developing this app was challenging, but fun. I have always been very interested in computers and have grown very fond of programming and computer science in general. Even when I was very little, I knew how to use the web browser, play games and surf the web (I did in Internet Explorer, but don’t judge, I was very little at the time!).

As I got older, I stopped playing games and started doing more serious stuff with my knowledge. The first language I learned was Objective – C as it was necessary to learn in order to make apps for the App Store. As it was the first language I learned, it was a bit difficult getting used to case sensitive syntax and learning that computers take this code and do whatever it says, down to the dot. Then I moved onto HandySpeech. I will admit that I did not write all the code myself for this app, I had some help from my dad. I also used 2 SDKs, for the handwriting recognition and the speech synthesis.

When I am not developing apps, I am playing Minecraft and coding there. Over the summer, I learned Java because I wanted to program plugins for Minecraft and I also needed to learn Java to port HandySpeech to Android. I also have a YouTube channel where I publish videos every once in a while and I am thinking about posting some coding lessons / time lapses of me coding.

TL;DR: Hi, I’m Eric Zeiberg and at age 13, I have developed an app that helps speech impaired people to communicate with others very efficiently and effectively by using Handwriting to Speech.

Proof: https://twitter.com/HandySpeech/status/375437954828623872 https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/handyspeech/id563600464?mt=8 https://twitter.com/HandySpeech/status/375675828073279488

www.ispeak4u.com (If this proof is not enough, I can provide more or you can trust me that I am not a phony)

EDIT: Still going to answer questions! Keep em coming!

EDIT 2: Love the support, guys! Going to stop the AmA for today, but keep your questions coming and I will try to answer them when I get up tomorrow @ 7AM EST.

EDIT 3: Thanks for all the support, guys! Going to sign off now. This was a great AmA and I may do another one in the future, if I have something to share. Bye now!

Comments: 123 • Responses: 26  • Date: 

BigTinz19 karma

It's really cool to see young programmers providing useful apps! ETA for an Android version?

HandySpeech10 karma

The Android version will probably not come out for a while. I am only now learning how to code for Android and rewriting HandySpeech for Android will take some time. In the meantime, there's some incentive to get an Apple device! :)

WilfridVoynich16 karma

Why is the app $29.99? That seems pretty steep if the goal is to help people with difficulty speaking to be understood. Are there production or licensing costs that I'm missing?

HandySpeech15 karma

Most apps that do (kinda) the same thing this app does cost over $200, so for the amount of features it has, this is a bargain. And this app can change peoples lives, so 29.99 is a small price to pay for that. If you are a registered institution, you can buy bulk copies at a lower cost as well.

jxggernaut0 karma

I thought when you submit an app, Apple has final say in what the price will be. How much say did you have when determining the price?

5herlock_Holmes4 karma


Apple can't set the price. You do. They have guidelines etc, but how else do you think some of those $999 apps got priced that way.

You have to price it so you are making a profit.

HandySpeech6 karma

Profit is actually not so much here. After you take away the chunk that the SDKs take off after each purchase, you are left with very little going into your bank account. But yes, we did choose the price.

sebasclav7 karma

You should try learning Android using the UDemy apps offered on the Apple store. They have definitely taught me a lot and are extremely useful. They also have other apps that teach you many other coding languages.

HandySpeech3 karma

Oh thanks! I will definitely try them out.

Jesters9477 karma

Has it helped your sister?

HandySpeech13 karma

Unfortunately, it has not. My sister does not know how to write, nor does she have any language skills other than the occasional "HI!" or "Mommy".

lovecreamcheese3 karma

Thank you for doing this AMA and for developing such a useful app!

Does your sister use any other apps designed to help non-verbal autistic users communicate? I'm not too familiar with them, but I saw a 60 minutes episode about it.

Second question: I have a 9 year-old son. He's really into minecraft. How can I encourage him to go into coding other than setting him up on codeacademy, etc? I know a little but not enough to teach him myself. What is the most motivating aspect for you to learn to code?

HandySpeech4 karma

No problem! My sister is very mentally challenged and most if not all autistic communication devices will not help her. As for the second question, the motivation I get for coding plugins is by playing on other servers. When I go onto a server and I see really cool custom coded plugins, it makes me want to code something similar like that. Unfortunatly, I think your son is a bit too young for coding, but maybe in the future, you can teach him.

OMGpancakeable5 karma

I find this very interesting since I am starting to learn C++ on my own through some book I got online. I have some questions: 1- How did u learn C? 2- What does your dad do? (probably related to you learning) 3- How long did it take you? 4- Any suggestions for new programmers? (books, etc)

HandySpeech1 karma

So I will answer the first 2 questions as one. I learned Objective - C with some help from my dad and from YouTube. My dad is a software engineer who works with C# and Sharepoint, but he has never programmed in Objective - C so this was new for him too. 3rd question is here - http://bit.ly/17Sxfvk 4th question. I don't think books are the way to go because you pay for them and they give you a set amount of knowledge. I would watch YouTube videos and when you get stuck with something, just search it on the web. There are a ton of resources to help you there.

psyder3k3 karma


Oh my god, you fucker, you're helping vampires and you don't even realize this!? How is that possible?!

HandySpeech2 karma

I think you should look more closely at the title, lol.

ThadJarvis853 karma

What percentage of the app did you write, and what percentage did your Dad?

HandySpeech4 karma

I wrote most of the app and my dad only helped with the most challenging parts.

throway9005-6 karma

Which would be the handwriting recognition then, which is pretty much all the program outside the speech function. But really I bet there are library's for both those functions so all that's left is integration and if you didn't do that then you pretty much did nothing.

HandySpeech6 karma

No need to be harsh. I used 2 SDKs, but gave them both a substantial rewrite so they could work as I wanted. If it looks easy to you, you try to do it. Also, there are a TON more features outside of the SDKs. If you want to take a look, I can give you a promo code.

throway90050 karma

What would I do with a promo code either you have github with the app or rewritten libraries submitted or you have nothing.

HandySpeech1 karma

Troll, troll go away. Don't come back another day.

throway90050 karma


HandySpeech1 karma

Please be nice, no one likes a troll / jealous person. I did not put it on GitHub so people like you won't copy it. You don't see Apple puttin iOS on GitHub, do you?

throway9005-2 karma

First of all your application is mostly dependent on other peoples libraries. So if all you do is leech others people work and don't contribute anything then you are scum or you didn't make any real changes.

Secondly you don't need to worry about copying if you use appropriate license, herp derp, http://choosealicense.com/

Thirdly why would you want to make a proprietary application to help disable people? Why would you price is at $30. Do you hate disabled people or just like milking them for sweet sweet cash?

Fourthly I don't use code script kiddies make plus I can get like what %90+ percent of your source-code from the libraries. If I cared I could just reverse engineer it anyway a completely legal and easy thing to do. But I don't because I don't care.

Lastly how can you even compare an OS to an iphone application? But here you can see a lot of software to help disabled people is open source since people care.

Also love how you say please be nice then passively call me a troll or jealous.

How about you be nice and stop being a fucking scum that charges $30 for an application that is %90+ other peoples libraries to help disabled people.

HandySpeech2 karma

Listen, first of all, I am still a kid. Even if everything you said is true (1% is) I still have a long life ahead. Second, most disabled helping software costs $100 - $200 dollars, so my app is really cheap in terms of features vs money. I mean, do you think I have the skill and knowledge to program a speech synthesis when giant companies have been developing one for 10 years? And the handwriting recognition got a rewrite anyway. Finally, why are you hating on me? Are you really immature like that? I mean, if you are an adult, then woah. If you are a kid, maybe that is a bit more reasonable, you know being jealous. Please, stop arguing and just move on with your life.


"My dad designed it, but a 13 year old designing it gets a lot more press and lands me on my local news station."

  • HandySpeech

(Sorry to hate on you but that's all I can think here)

HandySpeech2 karma

Thats totally not true, man. And even if my dad tried to design it, he does not know Objective - C, so he would not have gotten far.

kingcrouton3 karma

If you can pick any two celebrity voices for this, who would they be?

HandySpeech5 karma

Morgan Freeman and Sylvester Stallone. Love those actors.

Jyric3 karma

Wow, this seems like a really awesome creation of yours. I have two questions. Firstly, how did you learn to code?, what resources did you use etc. Secondly, what's your youtube channel called?

HandySpeech3 karma

I would watch YouTube videos and when I got stuck with something, I would just search it on the web. There are a ton of resources to help you there. There is more info in my previous comments.

nanner10002 karma

So i would love to get into developing software. (Im 14) what advice do you have? Also did you make much money from your app; if so what did you do with it?

HandySpeech2 karma

My advice is to just keep going at it. When I first started programming, and I have heard it from other people too, I was VERY intimidated by programming. Then I started learning more and it became more and more interesting and fun to me and also it did not seem so intimidating anymore. Also, don't program something if you don't want to do it. Imo, programming is for fun and to make a product that will be useful or creative. Unless you work for a company who assigns you a task, program what you want!

barkley59692 karma

What programming code would you recommend somebody learning first? I am looking to get started, but have no idea which to pick. Thanks

Lexusjjss2 karma

Not the OP, but here you go: /r/learnprogramming

Read the FAQ's, pick a language, have fun.

HandySpeech3 karma

So this AmA has taught me some stuff too! I did not know about that subreddit, thanks.

Sparxky2 karma

You mention that you have a YouTube channel, what is it?

HandySpeech1 karma

www.youtube.com/ejzeiberg and my IGN is MasterEjzz. (Planning on changing that for obvious reasons) Here is the HandySpeech YouTube account as well - www.youtube.com/HandySpeech

jtl9992 karma

You seem like a great guy. Keep up the good work!

A little background on myself I'm 14 and have been studying programming for 7 years. I have done lots of things from Python scripts that sort files to Minecraft cheats and more recently reverse engineering applications in x86 assembly and soon game development.

A few questions.

  • How many programming languages do you know?
  • If applicable what IDE's do you use?
  • How old were you when you first started programming?

HandySpeech3 karma

Thank you! I know Objective - C and Java and I am learning web development right now. For Obj - C I use Xcode because that is the best IDE for apple programming. For Java, I use Eclipse. When I first started programming, I was 11.

Jonesy_girlAZ2 karma

Very cool! You are very well spoken and bright for being so young.

HandySpeech2 karma


annalol2 karma


HandySpeech5 karma

Well right now I am in middle school so they force us to take all the classes, but in highschool I am planning to take a lot of coding and computer courses.

stu_dying242 karma

Take your time to answer these, but I´d aprecciate it.

  • How would you imagine the perfect 14th birthday party? (Mine was, Terminator 2 and lots of energy drinks :)

  • May I use you as a role model (by which I mean to tell your story to my future classes when I get to be paid to teach, somewhat soon hopefully... they would be pretty close in age)

As a side note, I will bookmark your app, because I can think of at least three other ways to do some some playful classroom activities for any language subject with it, other than its original purpose.

However, it may please you to know that Swiss schools have a relativly large budget to supply special needs children. If there is any chance they can be schooled with everybody else, they will, even if it means paying a special needs educator, speech educator and physiotherapist.

So I will definitely bookmark your app as well, to aid in future encounters with pupils of mine, who may be helped by this simple yet genuis application.

On further thought, why don´t you go advertise your app subtly in /r/teachers?

HandySpeech1 karma

The perfect birthday? Hmm, probably a ticket to a WWDC (Apple dev event) and a sign up to a technology school which taught you how to code anything. Yeah, sure I would be very honored if you used me as a model. Also I would appreciate you tell me if you post anything on the web about me. Just out of curiosity, you know. And yeah, I will probably post something on /r/teachers.

JackAddaway2 karma


HandySpeech4 karma

Hi Jack, I finally know your Reddit. This app took all summer to create if you count the time that I spent learning how to program and watching YouTube videos on it.

Karhold1 karma


HandySpeech2 karma

Thanks! What do you program?

ikarigullwing0 karma

Speaking as someone of an older generation who looks sadly at your generation, and their apparent lack of interest in programming, and how to use a computer beyond surfing the web/playing a computer game/reading facebook, to you I first say this:

Thank you. There should be more like you.

HandySpeech2 karma

No problem. I also agree that there should be more people, especially kids, who know how to code.