iOS app lets parents play Santa to their kids over the internet

22 Dec 2014

An Irish company is the brain behind a new animated puppeteer app that allows parents or loved ones to pretend to be Santa through their phones over VoIP.

MagicFriends Xmas app enables children to have real conversations with Santa and his friends on an iPad or iPhone, where the Santa is actually voiced and animated by a parent, a family member or via the app’s artificial intelligence.

The child can chat with Santa, Sam the Snowman, Candy the elf or Prancer the reindeer on the screen.

MagicFriends is built on a voice over IP (VoIP) technology that lets kids and the puppeteer be in the same house or miles apart.

The app’s voice changer allows the puppeteer to morph their voice to match each different character and the morphed voice syncs with the mouth movement of the character on the child’s screen.

The puppeteer can also control the animation and with a swipe make the Santa jump, wave, wink, dance or twirl.

Powering the imagination

MagicFriends founder Mike Hennessey explained that because the puppeteer is played by a parent or family member they know their child, from their birthday to their favourite colour, toy or bedtime story.

“This creates moments of magic for the parent and their child that will last long after the holiday season is over.

“It has been great fun to watch children talking to our MagicFriends characters, Santa and his friends. The conversations can be hilarious. Children’s imaginations have no limits so you never know the direction they will go.

“MagicFriends Xmas encourages children to actively use their imagination by asking and answering questions, laughing, joking, and learning. Developing a child’s imagination promotes learning and creativity. Through conversation and interaction, a child picks up language skills and absorbs the basics of social interaction, which is essential to a child’s growth and healthy development.”

Developed at MagicFriends’ HQ in the Digital Hub in Dublin, the app can be downloaded for free on the App Store with the Sam the Snowman character. Users can upgrade to a paid annual subscription with unlimited calls and all the characters for €3.59.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years