You may not believe in Santa Claus, but the jovial spirit of Christmas has got you surrounded this festive season.
Thousands upon thousands of department store Santa Clauses have already set up grottos and workshops in just about every major store you’ll come across right through until the big day. Some even attend Santa school to make sure their Ho Ho Ho’s are just right.
Major chains, such as Walmart, are even using the lure of an in-store Santa Claus to combat the rise in online shopping. They’re gambling that parents will sprinkle a few festive dollars around the store while they wait for their child’s chance to speak to Santa.
And wait you will. The line to see Santa at Macy’s Santaland is often three hours long. Now, that may in fact be the real Santa Claus holed up at Macy’s, but on the off chance it’s not, then waiting three hours to see anyone impersonate a character repeatedly portrayed by Tim Allen is ridiculous.
So don’t do it.
Instead, visit Santa from the comfort of your own home with a video call to the North Pole.
Your Santa Video Chat Options
If you’re in the Santa Claus business, and those schools I mentioned earlier are churning out hundreds of graduates a year, then why not set yourself apart from the jolly red crowd and offer an online service?
There are a couple of services currently available that do just that, but they have their limitations. The Video Call Santa app for Android and iOS is a pre-recorded service that asks standard questions of children, and then offers to secretly record the audio for parents to access at a fee.
HelloSanta looks promising, but expensive, and as of right now the site doesn’t appear to offer a way to order an actual call with Santa. Perhaps he’s too busy overseeing his elves?
And while VideoChatwithSanta.com does actually let you schedule a call from the North Pole, it cuts you off after five minutes and doesn’t have the most impressive of visuals.
With video conferencing technology where it is, we can definitely do better than that.
The Technology of Video Calling the North Pole
For starters, get a better looking backdrop.
If you don’t have access to an authentic Arctic workshop then it’s possible to invest in a little augmented reality to superimpose one, or create a digital version and crop your image so only your body is presented amid the virtual background. There are a couple of ways to achieve the latter that we’ve previously discussed as a means of improving the online dating experience, such as the program Personify.
Next, find a form of video conferencing that doesn’t rely on static, squared chat windows more suited to a budget meeting with colleagues. Join.Me, for instance, lets its video callers float gently on screen in rounded bubbles, a far more exciting setting for a magical chat with Santa.
And how about getting a little physically interactive by using a document or screen sharing feature and letting the child write a list of their desired Christmas presents via touch screen technology? There are already several video calling apps that let you write all over your screen, so turn that to your advantage.
Finally, help get the family out of the line–real-world or virtual–by letting them schedule a call in advance. And encourage mom or dad to divulge a few secret morsels of information while booking so you can prove you really do see your young caller when they’re being bad or good: that’s a trick the typical in-store Santa can’t match.
DIY Video Calls to Santa
Now, if you’re on the child’s side of the equation, doesn’t that sound like an improvement on waiting in line for hours to speak to a Santa parked in the middle of a bland suburban shopping center?
But you parents out there don’t actually have to wait for the 2016 graduating class of Santa Clauses to get their act together online–you could do this yourself.
Just set up a new video conferencing account on a platform that suits you best, be it smartphone, tablet, or laptop. Then don the appropriate outfit and beard, and seclude yourself in the best approximation of the North Pole you can find.
Use a smartphone service and speak to the kids from the lot of a Christmas tree sales yard if you have to, or run some tinsel across your garage workshop and use one of the video conferencing platforms that help you edit your background and lighting to create the most realistic setting. Programs like ChatLight or ViewMe could help with this.
Now there’s no need to schedule a call, no need to secretly share a few intimate details to sound authentic, and no need to eavesdrop on the conversation in order to find out what little Timmy really wants for Christmas.
And if you do make your own video appearance as Santa, make sure you record it (there are plenty of platforms that allow you to do that, too, such as Zoom and BlueJeans). That’s going to be one remarkable video conversation to look back on decades into the future.
Image Source: Flickr CC user Orin Zebest