You may stand in line at the mall to see the real Santa, but more and more kids spend sometimes up to one hour chatting with a Virtual Santa Claus online. There are now plenty of online chat-bots talking to literally hundreds of thousands of children during the Christmas season.
It's known that children feel comfortable talking to Santa, but that's also true for an automated Santa software on the Internet. So, who are these artificial Santa Clauses? Where do you find them? And, what are the children saying to them?
Who are these Santa Clauses?
Various types of Santa bots exist online - from purely text based to fully-animated talking avatars of Santa Claus.
- The famous santabot.com is a text-based chatbot using an Instant Message (IM) interface like MSN messenger or ICQ that kids a comfortable with.
- The Santa bot developed by the A. L. I. C. E. foundation has a talking Santa head with a deep robot voice, text-to-speech, so you can actually hear Santa talk back to you.
- Santa lives also in virtual worlds, such as one flash animated Santa Clause that sits behind the counter of a ‘milk and cookies bar’ ready to take your order.
What do kids say to a Virtual Santa Clause?
Kids will say about anything to Santa, and a unique insight into how kids interact with the Santa Claus bots online can be found in the statistics and trends collected from them.
- The average time spend chatting with Santa is 18 minutes
- Some conversations have lasted over 60 minutes
- The popular questions year after year: “Are you real", “Sing me a song", “Do you know any jokes", “Can you take off your beard?", “Where is Mrs Claus"
- New questions asked this season, most probably due to the economic downturn - “a job for my daddy", “can you send us money"
- One chat in ten includes some form of insult. But kids will also usually be quick to apologize and ask Santa not to get angry
- Almost gone are the bicycles and roller blades. The toys children ask for this season are “iPod", “Wii", “Xbox 360", and “PSP"
This article was contributed by Nathan Bajrach - founder of Virtual Spirits which develops virtual agents and automated chats applications.
Click here to chat with Santa Clause this Christmas.