Young coder sparks "Timeless" memories for people with Alzheimer's

NEW YORK -- Listen to Emma Yang play the piano, and it's no surprise she played Carnegie Hall before she was in high school. But her piano skills may take a back seat to her computer skills.

"I started coding when I was around 6 years old," Yang said.

Four years later, her beloved grandmother, who lived in Hong Kong, started developing Alzheimer's disease.

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Emma Yang started coding at a young age

CBS News

"So when I'm on the phone with her, she's going to ask me the same question over and over again," she explained. "'Have you eaten?' 'How are you?' And then 'how are you' again."  

But with her coding, Yang had the skill set to help.

"One of the big things that I really love about app developing and coding is that, you know, it's really empowered me to do something to help her," she said. "Even if she is still declining, she can actually still stay connected with me."

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Emma Yang shows us how "Timeless" works. It's an app she developed that helps people with Alzheimer's

CBS News

Emma developed "Timeless" – an app using facial recognition technology to remind people with Alzheimer's who they are looking at when sent a picture. It also shows whether they just called someone they are about to redial.

Cole Calistra found out first hand about Yang's determination. He's chief technology officer at Kairos, which provides the facial recognition software that powers the app.

"For somebody to have that type of drive at that age is just remarkable," he said.

"You know it's easy, it's accessible, and it's really convenient," said Yang. "So I think that this can have the opportunity to help every single person with Alzheimer's."

If you're not impressed, Bill Gates certainly is. He tweeted out his support for Yang and her project.

Emma hopes to launch "Timeless" this summer. After that? Tenth grade should be a breeze.

For more information about Timeless, and the crowdfunding effort behind it, head to the app's website.

  • Jim Axelrod

    Jim Axelrod is the senior national correspondent for CBS News, reporting for "CBS This Morning," the "CBS Evening News," "CBS Sunday Morning," and other CBS News broadcasts.