Toca Boca

Bonnie Says Boo!

15 Oct 2014 by Zemika

Today is the premiere of the shortest horror movie ever made for kids. Toca Boca proudly presents ”Bonnie Says Boo!”
Be excited.
Be very excited!

We definitely have some spooky things up our sleeves – Toca Boo is coming soon!

We’re removing our first app – and here is why!

9 Oct 2014 by Emil Ovemar

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Since we launched Helicopter Taxi — our very first app — we have produced over 20 high quality digital toys that have been downloaded more than 70 million times. Our overall experience from creating digital toys for kids tells us that the time has come to let Helicopter Taxi fly on to new adventures.

Why? It has been downloaded more than 250,000 times since 2011 and it is still a popular toy — but it does not meet the high standards for quality and user experience that we’ve developed since we began. During the past four years we have learned and evolved within play and now have a better understanding of what a digital toy from Toca Boca should be like.

At Toca Boca, we are devoted to changing the role of play on digital platforms. We do that by creating digital toys that answer to a large range of criteria, some of which include:

Open Ended. We don’t steer the direction of play or the experience a child has when playing one of our apps.
Intuitive to Use. Kids should be able to understand and enjoy our apps without guidance from a grown-up.
Accessible to a Global Audience. With downloads in more than 160 countries, we want our digital toys to be as international as possible, without spoken or written language in the actual toy.

We want to ensure that kids and parents who choose to play with one of our products know they’re getting what they’ve paid for. So when we realized Helicopter Taxi lacks too many of the above quality measures, we decided to cancel it altogether.

As we let our beloved helicopter fly into the sunset I’d like to take this opportunity to thank the team who created the first ever Toca Boca app: Jens Peter de Pedro, Emil Berner and Andrey Zhukov. Their work laid the ground for what Toca Boca is today.

And to all our Helicopter Taxi fans, thank you for supporting us since the beginning. If you already have the app it will not disappear — you can continue to enjoy it as long as you don’t change devices.

We will remove Helicopter Taxi from the App Store on October 13.

Emil Ovemar
Co-founder and executive producer at Toca Boca

 

Come play with us in Brooklyn, NY

6 Oct 2014 by Zemika

Toca Boca Plays in Brooklyn

Happy National Play-Doh Day!

17 Sep 2014 by Megan

One of the best parts about working at Toca Boca is that play is fully embraced.  So when I asked if anyone wanted to play with Play-Doh on National Play-Doh day I wasn’t left sitting in a room by myself. In fact, I had seven other friends who wanted to join in the fun. We have various degrees of artistic ability but we’re all pros at using our imagination. Take a look!

Just getting started. The creativity is oozing out of our fingers.

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Some flashy new jewels!

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Taco Tuesday!

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Roses are always a nice treat!

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Just play, okay!

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Awe, these little guys are so cute!

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It’s the Golden Gate bridge. We sure do heart SF!

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Meet Chris Desk

9 Sep 2014 by Zemika

Every week, we kindly ask one of our fellow Toca Bocans for a quick peek at their desk. Actually, we never really ask, we simply take some time to snoop around in their creative mess, which is then neatly organized a moment later.

This week we’re saying hi to Chris, Play Designer for many super Toca Boca apps! She’s been with the company since it started in 2010 and we can’t think of a genius equal to this girl! As a Play Designer she’s been working on a lot our apps, like Toca Tea Party, Toca Doctor, Toca Robot Lab, Toca Birthday Party, Toca Cars, Toca Mini, Toca Pet Doctor… You name it!

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Zemika: Thanks for having us over, Chris! Tell us about your desk – what is the single most important thing you keep on here?

Chris:  Definitely my yellow Staedtler pencil with the perfect 0.9 thickness for writing and sketching!

Z: Wow! I’ll have to try it sometime. What else to you fancy on your desk?

C: I have to say my bag. It makes me happy when the skies are grey.

Z: Tots agree with that. Dots can make any day a good day! What is the most questionable thing on your desk? Like ‘what was I thinking?!’

C: I’m not sure why I’ve kept my precious COWA! manga (Eds note: manga’s are comics created in Japan) at my desk. It should be in a safe shelf at home.

Z: What’s the thingie next to your computer?

C: It’s a little swan carrying her babies on the back. It was given to me by my colleagues wife, she suddenly remembered how I once adored it at their apartment and bought me one. Such a nice thing to do!

Z: Oh dear, that’s literally karma! No one’s ever done that for me… What about the luminous scull?

C: It’s a shiny skull sticker actually and was designed by Acne Jr, do you know them? They also designed our Toca Boca logo!

Z: That’s true! They did! A happier smile is hard to find.

Meet Marko’s Desk

3 Sep 2014 by Zemika

Every week, we kindly ask one of our fellow Toca Bocans for a quick peek at their desk. Actually, we never really ask, we simply take some time to snoop around in their creative mess, which is then neatly organized a moment later.

This week we’re checking out Marko. He’s been with us for ages (since 2013) and he is still with us, which is absolutely fabulous! He’s one of the brains behind our apps as he’s programming. To name a few of his master coding pieces check out Toca Cars, Toca Pet Doctor and Toca Town. Now, let’s take a look!

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Zemika: Compared to other people your desk seems a bit more… spacious…? What can’t you live without amongst these treasures?

Marko: The coffee, obviously! I mean, I can always tell others how to write their code just in case I lose my laptop, so that’s no biggie, but without the coffee there’d be problems.

Z: Completely support that answer… Is there a story behind something on your desk?

M: Originally I wanted to buy a hat just to keep my long hair in check, so I figured a cap would be the most casual solution. I stumbled across a Sweet Skateboards cap with their cool backwards questionmark logo, and bought it just to have something on my head, more or less. I ended up getting so much praise for my new cool cap that it transformed me into a certified cap-wearing-person, now owning way too many caps. Which I love, of course.

Z: The casual-solution-guy turned certified cap-wearing-person! That’s definitely a great story! While you’re at it, share a fun fact please?

M: The programming book is something I just carry around to appear smarter than I actually am.

Z: I see, you’re taking street smart to the text level? Perfect!

Meet Ida’s Desk

29 Aug 2014 by Zemika

Every week, we kindly ask one of our fellow Toca Bocans for a quick peek at their desk. Actually, we never really ask, we simply take some time to snoop around in their creative mess, which is then neatly organized a moment later.

This week we have invited Ida! She recently joined us and is part of the marketing team. Her title was Project Manager at first but we thought Producer was so much cooler. We can’t wait to check out her desk secrets!

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Zemika: Thanks for letting us snoop around! You have a lot of dark colors here… Which one of those dark colored things can you not live without?

Ida: Oh, that’s definitely my headphones! Im obsessed with music and I listen to music every moment I can; on the subway, when biking, when working…

Z: Oh, when biking..?! Hardcore.

I: They are also great to have when making calls or simply when my colleagues are tired of listening to my playlists..

Z: I hear you girl! So, what is the most questionable thing on your desk? Like ‘why the heck do I have this thingie’?

I: That has to be the 2 backstage passes! There is no simple answer to what they are doing on my desk. One is from a Justin Timberlake concert in Berlin and the other one is from a gig in Paris with the French rapper Grems. I have no clue why they ended up in the office as they have no function at all in my day to day work.

Z: Why don’t you tell another story about something on your desk, you seem to be doing a lot of fun things!

I: *Silence…*

Z: Alright then… What if you had to throw something away, what would that be?

I: That would be the dirty coffee cups! I drink A LOT of coffee and I’m too lazy to put them in to the dishwasher (Ed note: It’s around the corner and 20 meters straight ahead), therefore it ends up with a tower of dirty cups by the end of the week. Fresh pots!!

Z: What’s that scary photo to the left? That one with a lot of people screaming?

I: I’m really scared of all sorts of roller coasters, but have somehow ended up getting obsessed with them! There is one ride here in Stockholm that I always end up taking, Fritt Fall. (Ed note: Basically it means they’ll drop you at the top and you fall down; dead or alive.)
Listen to this:
Height: 80 meters
G-force: 3.5
Premiere: 1998
Speet Upwards: 3 m/second
Speed Downwards: 0-100 km/hour in 2.5 seconds.

Z: Ouch, that’s making me dizzy… Need to sit down…

I: It’s literally just as stomach-churning as it sounds! The view from the top is amazing but there’s no way you’ll remember that when your screaming voice starts to echo all over town! It’s a ride that gives me such a kick, and when I see the photo which is taken at the very top, I always end up buying it. It really captures the feeling of a moment I both love and hate.

Z: Thanks a million for that Ida! I’ll make sure to go up there if I want to die.

 

Remembering Vacation

28 Aug 2014 by Megan

Here at Toca Boca we cherish our beloved summer vacation. Not only do we take time off from work to relax and recharge, we also take the time to go to cool (sometimes new) places! This year was no exception, from Africa to Wyoming, we explored this great big world. Take a look below and let us know where you go on vacation. Maybe we went to the same places!

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Klas did a bit of hiking at Padjelantaleden in the Padjelanta National Park. Beautiful!

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Zemika was busy hanging out with giraffs in Africa.

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While Sherry did a little Rocky Mountain camping in Colorado.

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Megan visited Jenny Lake in Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming.

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Tarush enjoyed an evening kayak along the Charles River in Boston.

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Kalle and his adorable daughters played restaurant complete with Toca t-shirts and tiaras.

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Alex camped inside a postcard in the Denali National Park.

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Johanna had fun with mirrors in the House of Mirrors at Gröna Lund’s amusement park.

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And Ida went to Gröna Lund too, having fun with a view!

There you have it. Just a few snapshots of our time on vacation. Now, let’s get back to work!

Kicking off our Fall Adventures

22 Aug 2014 by Zemika

It’s fall again and summer’s all gone, at least on this side of the globe. When ignoring the grey and rainy days fall isn’t all bad, at least not if you’re a Toca Bocan! As our secret event group were brainstorming for our yearly fall kick-off they were dreaming about keeping the summer feeling and spritz it out on a nice breakfast baguette… Oh that’s right, baguette! The theme took a spin and fell on French food, and it was so inspiring an office Brasserie was built and a fake lawn for picnic was brought inside. Nuts? A bit. Fun? Definitely! Follow us and we’ll show you around!

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Meet Amanda’s Desk

25 Jul 2014 by Megan

Every week, we kindly ask one of our fellow Toca Bocans for a quick peek at their desk. Actually, we never really ask, we simply take some time to snoop around in their creative mess, which is then neatly organized a moment later.

This week we have the amazing Amanda. She has been working at Toca Boca since 2011 and has been a part of the teams that have developed some Toca Boca favorites like Toca House, Toca Tailor, Toca Mini (which was her favorite app) & Toca Town.

Amanda desk

Megan: So Amanda, tell us about some of the cool stuff on your desk.

Amanda: Hmm, well the round stickers on my macbook are the first Toca Boca stickers we made without the logo. We only made one batch so they’re quite rare! The other sticker on my macbook, the cat/octopus one, is from github.com, a tool that I use every day at work. I love Lego, so I have several Lego models that I’ve built at my desk. The Lego model at the top left corner is “The Shellraiser”, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles’ car. I’m a big TMNT fan. I built it during one of our Lego nights at the office.

M: Very cool! Isn’t lego the best? What can you not live without?

A: My computer! What’s missing in the photo that I also cannot live without: my computer mouse & mousepad, and my second monitor which is essential when coding. My favorite item on my desk is the Yoshi plushie. Can’t live without him either.

M: Awe! Yoshi is essential. What sort of things on your desk make you laugh?

A: The Lego model at the bottom left corner of the photo. I call him “Nybble”.

M: LOL! He makes me laugh too! Tells us more!

A: Many of the other things on my desk are stuff I’ve bought from the Gashapon machine in the office. The coin is in fact a Japanese coin (100 yen) that I need for buying stuff from the Gashpaon machine. Let’s see, theres the black christmas ornament that came from the Toca Boca christmas party that I helped organize at the end of last year. The small white robot, you can hardly see it in the photo, but it’s below the christmas ornament, is a 3D model that I’ve printed using the 3D printer that we have at the office. (It should be known that Amanda recently fixed the 3D printer in the office! Another reason for being amazing Amanda!). And I have two iPhone/iPad charger cables, one with the new type of connector and one with the ‘old style’ connector, that I use for debugging on older devices such as iPad 1, 2 & 3 and iPhone 3GS, 4 & 4S.

M: Thanks for sharing your desk with us, Amanda! Sorry we moved everything around… will you forgive us?

Toca Town Update

25 Jul 2014 by Megan

The people have spoken! You asked for refillable cups and bottles in Toca Town and we listened. We loved reading all your comments and suggestions and were more than happy to revamp Toca Town to add this fun feature. It’s available today on the App Store! Don’t have Toca Town? No worries! It’s just a click away for only $2.99!

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The Mad Scientist

23 Jul 2014 by Megan

Well, not really. But our friend Willow is using some cool science to make Kombucha in the office. It currently resides in the kitchen and after a few strange looks at the SCOBY brewing we decided to ask Willow all about it!

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Megan: So, what is this stuff?

Willow: It’s a fermenting culture that helps turn sweet tea into a fizzy drink that’s filled with B-vitamins, antioxidants and those good-for-your-tummy probiotics. It originally comes from China, from one of the dynasty’s, and is a gazillion years old (the process that is). I’ve only been making it for around six months.

M: It looks a little strange to see floating in a jar in the kitchen. How did you get started?

W: I picked up a batch from the Stockholm mini maker fare when I visited. A lady had been given the SCOBY from a friend who got it direct from China – which is where it originates from.

M: OK, so you get some ancient SCOBY and then what?

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W: You make really sweet tea – like 2 dl sugar to 1.5 liters water. Boil the water, add the sugar and black or green tea. Leave to cool. Add your SCOBY and leave for 5-7 days until desired sweetness is reached. The SCOBY eats the sugar, basically just like yeast in bread, and produces bubbles and all the other good stuff like antioxidants and probiotics.

M: So it’s fizzy and sweet? How does it taste?

W: It has been called the champagne of teas, but I think that makes it sound pretty gross. I really like it, obviously. It’s sort of hard to describe… it has that little edge that fermentation brings but does not taste bitter. If you brew it a long time it tastes vinegary, which I quite like too.

M: I assume there are a ton of heath benefits to this champagne of teas…

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W: Oh there’s loads! Russian and Chinese studies have shown it prevents cancer, something about the glucaric acid in it. It helps relieve joint pain and arthritis. It’s a good detox, helps your digestion and boosts the immune system.

M: Oh wow! Sign me up for all of that! And thanks for sharing. Is it tea party time?

 

Meet Yanto’s desk!

18 Jul 2014 by Zemika

Every week, we kindly ask one of our fellow Toca Bocans for a quick peek at their desk. Actually, we never really ask, we simply take some time to snoop around in their creative mess, which is then neatly organized a moment later.

First up is our Office Assistant, Yanto. If you ever visit our office in Stockholm and see a casual plate of cold cuts in the kitchen, spot a bottle of home-made Sangria, hear some weird but funky music or simply enjoy a cup of freshly brewed coffee – that’s all him!

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Q: Hi Yanto! What three things could you not live without on your desk?

A: 1. Post-It’s*. Makes my wold a little more fluffy and also pink. 2. Dymo-Master. Who doesn’t want to label everything that isn’t where it’s supposed to be? 3. The staplers. One is used for short term. But for most projects I use the grey and yellow mothership! It has a more long-lasting effect.

*In case you’re wondering what each Post-it color means:

Orange: What the boss wants – not the wife
Sunshine: Scribble
Pink: Urgent
Green: It’s in the pipe
Blue: What my wife wants for dinner
Yellow: I should probably do this today or tomorrow, or the day after tomorrow…

How I got to do a TEDx talk

14 Jul 2014 by JP de Pedro

It’s supposed to be the talk of your life. There will be no one but you on stage, the paying audience is expecting to be entertained and enlightened, all lights will be on you, cameras are rolling. You get one chance. This will be on YouTube, for all to see, forever.  Sound nerve wrecking? It is.

It’s now right before my talk. I’ve been lying on my back for 45 minutes, on a hard wooden bench shorter than I, in the darkness behind the stage. Talking to myself…

“I better not stand up. My legs feel like spaghetti. Gotta save my energy. Keep calm, breathe. Deep breaths. Not too deep or I’ll get dizzy. Wait, I am dizzy…”

I hear the name of the next to last speaker being introduced. Out of the corner of my eye I see him walk on stage. Applause.

“Soon it’s me. In a few minutes I’ll be on the other side of the curtain facing the people in the auditorium.”

For some reason, they had chosen to have me, a rather inexperienced speaker, be the last one for the day. I’m the big finale.

“Did I string them on? I’m getting imposter syndrome. Damn, I can’t believe it’s now! All the work I put in…here I go. Ugh…”

That’s the talk the speech coach told me not to have with myself.  I’ll try what he said to tell myself instead:

“Just focus on the delivery, Jens. Focus on the craft. Finish your sentences with emphasis. Find a friendly face or two in the audience and talk to them.”

As I’m ushered toward the edge of the curtain I hear my name. “From Brooklyn, New York. He’s a TOY DESIGNER…. Jens Peter de Pedrooooooo!” I’m not a toy designer. Oh well.

I’m on stage.

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Source: TEDxNavesink

I start talking.

 What am I saying?

 “Wow, listen to me talking! You’re doing great, Jens! Wait, what are you talking about? Get back to the audience now! Be present!”

Then. I’m off stage! I pulled it off. I did it! It wasn’t perfect but it was OK. I stumbled a couple times, but, because I’m so freaking media savvy, I just repeated the sentences so that the video editor would catch it in post and take the botched segment away and leave the new one in! It might have appeared slightly odd to the audience, but it was a genius move! Backstage, I raised my arms in victory. Who cares about the audience! Everyone knows it’s all about the video! I’m a freaking genius! I hacked TEDx! Unless the editor is a fool, then I’ll look like a fool too. Oh, well… we’ll see.

Six weeks later the video comes out. The editor was with it! Everyone I know is very impressed. The most common question is: How did you get to do a TEDx-talk?! Some emphasize the “you” more than others…

First let’s straighten out a common misconception. There are TED talks and TEDx talks. The official TED talks organized by the official TED-folks are called  TED…something: TED2015, TEDGlobal, TED-Ed, etc. Those events have a total of a few hundred speakers a year that are often celebrities or exceptional talents. You have people like Al Gore, Hillary Clinton, Sting, Sheryl Sandberg. Then there are TEDx events. These are independently franchised by volunteers on a topic that they care about. Recently TEDx surpassed the milestone of 10,000 events since its inception. Just last year, in 2013, there were 3,112 TEDx events held around the world. They each showcase about 10-25 speakers that talk on one topic. If you consider the wide range of topics, to be asked to speak in your country or region, is still a pretty big deal.

So why me? The theme for this particular TEDx event was play and, well, I actually happen to be accomplished at something, believe it or not. I was part of starting the most successful kids app company in history, and I have designed apps that are sitting on top of the charts on iTunes. Ya know, Toca Hair Salon, Toca Kitchen, Toca Train. I’ve also been working in children’s interactive media for 15 years, which make me somewhat of a veteran.

You’d expect that to be the topic of my talk, however it was not. Instead, I talked about the importance of creating toys, physical or digital, that don’t feel like they exclude girls or boys. My talk was entitled “Why we must go beyond pink and blue”. It is not a topic I am an expert on per se, but it is something that I have come to care greatly about in the latter part of my career. Toys shape how we play, and how we play shapes who we become. I may not have a PhD or be a psychologist, but I think I managed to make a convincing case for this coming from the perspective of someone who designs tools for play for a living.

In theory, anyone can do a TEDx talk. You don’t have to be an expert at what you talk about. There are no official credentials. You just have to…

1.  Have something to say, or as the TED slogan goes, you have an “idea worth spreading”. One idea per person is enough.

2.  Be able to prove that you will be able to present your idea in a convincing way in front of a live audience.

Of course having some credible experience for why someone should listen to you is crucial. I had already talked to an audience before on the topic and received a standing ovation. Mentioning that was enough for me to get to present the idea for my talk to a panel of organizers.

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Source: TEDxNavesink

 If you are interested in trying your luck or just watching a TEDx live, find an upcoming event near you on the TED site. If there’s an event on a topic that you have thoughts about or are just interested in, contact the organizer and ask to speak or be part of the audience.

Let me know what you learn!

I’m @jp_de_pedro on Twitter.

Cheers!

Jens

Why Parents Stink at Playing With Their Kids

9 Jul 2014 by Megan

Hey Parents! Guess what? You stink at playing with your kids. It’s a harsh reality and we’re sorry to have to be so blunt, but it’s becoming an epidemic. The good news is that we have a fix and it’s a pretty simple solution. Our good friend JP, with help from his daughter, recently wrote a blog post for The Joan Ganz Cooney Center to better explain why parents need to be better when it comes to play.

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