ToyTalk: How to Create Space Sounds from Everyday Life


Two years ago, two Pixar alumni came together and founded ToyTalk—an app designed to combine conversation with entertainment. ToyTalk’s first project, The Winston Show, is a talk show starring characters—Winston and Ellington—that can listen and talk back to the app’s user.

And while designing an app comes with its own unique challenges, ToyTalk’s biggest challenge is recreating sounds of fantasy from everyday events and objects.

In the newest sketch from The Winston Show, "In the Movies," ToyTalk created a special episode where kids can play alien invaders who attack Winston’s ship. So how do you create sounds of interstellar warfare? And how do you make these sounds realistic for the kids who play the game?

Enter Frank Clary.

Clary, who worked on movies like Toy Story 3 and Avatar, is the sound designer of ToyTalk. He works to recreate sounds for the app by sourcing urban and metal sounds from everyday life. Clary first picked up sound design when he was a musician and worked with turntables. “I really loved shaping sounds and twisting them,” he said.

Clary’s love of sound continued into his professional career. “I’ve had the privilege of working on some amazing tracks before that offered me the opportunity to ride dragons on Avatar and buckling up in the drivers seat to reenact car chases for MI4: Ghost Protocol, but I’ve never had the chance to board a starship and engage in interstellar warfare,” Clary wrote on the ToyTalk blog.

According to Clary, the sound team needed to create the following sounds for the latest episode:

1. photon torpedo fire
2. impact and explosion
3. reverberant low frequency rumbles for the shaking ship
4. moaning metal
5. hissing air released by valves
6. heavy metal and plastic rattling on the ship’s bridge
7. a distress alarm

After compiling the list of necessary sounds, Clary then set out to find them.

“I believe that sound is responsible for bringing images to life,” Clary tells mental_floss. “Sound is an invisible medium that we’re always being exposed to.”

The team arranged to have mortar shells and dynamite blown up. They scoured submarines and battleships for heavy metal doors with stressed hinges. They dragged an anchor across different surfaces. They even called an officer from the San Francisco Police Department to record the sound from the department’s newest siren, which Clary had heard one day when he was sitting in his office. “It really caught my attention,” he says. The police department had adopted a new siren that mixed low frequency and high frequency sounds that would carry the screech of the siren further distances. Fortunately, the police department let ToyTalk stop by to record it for The Winston Show.

“My goal is always to sort of stretch our acceptance of reality on a visual medium of sorts,” Clary says.

No One Can Figure Out This Second Grade Math Problem

Angie Werner got a lot more than she bargained for on January 24, when she sat down to help her 8-year-old daughter, Ayla, with her math homework. As Pop Sugar reports, the confusion began when they got to the following word problem:

“There are 49 dogs signed up to compete in the dog show. There are 36 more small dogs than large dogs signed up to compete. How many small dogs are signed up to compete?”

Many people misread the problem and thought it was a trick question: if there are 36 more small dogs and the question is how many small dogs are competing, then maybe the answer is 36?


Frustrated by the confusing problem, Angie took to a private Facebook group to ask fellow moms to weigh in on the question, which led to even more confusion, including whether medium-sized dogs should somehow be accounted for. (No, they shouldn’t.) Another mom chimed in with an answer that she thought settled the debate:

"Y'all. A mom above figured it out. We were all wrong. If there is a total of 49 dogs and 36 of them are small dogs then there are 13 large dogs. That means 36 small dogs subtracted by 13 large dogs then there are 23 more small dogs than large dogs. 36-13=23. BOOM!!! WOW! Anyone saying there's half and medium dogs tho just no!"

It was a nice try, but incorrect. A few others came up with 42.5 dogs as the answer, with one woman explaining her method as follows: "49-36=13. 13/2=6.5. 36+6.5=42.5. That's how I did it in my head. Is that the right way to do it? Lol I haven't done math like this since I was in school!"

Though commenters understandably took issue with the .5 part of the answer—an 8-year-old is expected to calculate for a half-dog? What kind of dog show is this?—when Ayla’s teacher heard about the growing debate, she chimed in to confirm that 42.5 is indeed the answer, but that the blame in the confusion rested with the school. "The district worded it wrong,” said Angie. “The answer would be 42.5, though, if done at an age appropriate grade."

Want to try another internet-baffling riddle?

Here's the answer.

[h/t: Pop Sugar]

Open Einstein
You Can Now Print 3D Replicas of Einstein's Childhood Toys
Open Einstein
Open Einstein

For children, playtime is an essential part of cognitive development. Now, you can give them toys that befit their genius: 3D replicas of the ones that Albert Einstein himself played with.

The LEGO Foundation, Unilever, and IKEA have launched Open Einstein, a site where you can download a 3D printing kit that allows you to make exact replicas of the wooden blocks the Nobel Prize-winning physicist played with during his childhood in Germany. "Play empowers children to create and learn for the rest of their lives," the site declares. "It is a fundamental right for all children."

The 3D printing kit provides designs for 36 toy blocks of various sizes and shapes. Einstein's wooden boxes of blocks, made by the German company Anker-Steinbaukasten, are currently held by a collector named Seth Kaller. (According to his website, you can buy them if you have $160,000 on hand.)

A dark image labeled 'Open Einstein' with wooden blocks in the background
Open Einstein

The 3D printing kit contains model instructions for only a fraction of the 160 blocks in the original set, which Einstein reportedly used throughout his childhood to erect complex structures at home. He wasn't the only famous fan of the toys: Frank Lloyd Wright, Buckminster Fuller, and other notable creatives played with the same blocks.

If you're looking for a particularly erudite toy to nurture your child's mind, blocks—whether Einstein-related or not—are a pretty good choice. The National Association for the Education of Young Children says that playing with blocks can enhance problem-solving skills, fine-tune motor skills, and boost creativity.

Your child may never come up with world-changing scientific theories, but if nothing else, hopefully the set will impart some of the genius's sense of creativity. Or at least his delightful playfulness.


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