The COVID-19 Pandemic was going to prevent many children from speaking with Santa Claus this year. But, AI startup StoryFile had other plans – Christmas would not be cancelled.
Today StoryFile announced that AskSanta.com, the world's first artificially intelligent, virtual Santa Claus, has already been visited by children from over 170 countries. Today, the site allows children of all ages to interact with Santa in real time, for free, and with no time limits.
Heather Smith, Co-Founder & CEO of StoryFile, developed the idea to use her company’s conversational video technology to usher in the holiday spirit. StoryFile created AI powered Ask Santa as a gift to children everywhere.
While there are many virtual Santa experiences this year, Ask Santa is the only one that is free, interactive, and answers questions in real time. While some custom video experiences can cost as much as $58 for 8 minutes, Ask Santa has no time limit, or limit on the number of sessions per child or family.
The idea was to create an experience for people to speak with Santa from the comfort and safety of their homes – and have the opportunity to ask Santa (almost) anything! Ask Santa is even being visited by large groups using big screen TVs or monitors. Ask Santa is a webpage app that works on any browser on smartphones, tablets, desktops etc.
“By far the most frequent thing kids bring up with Ask Santa is their concern for his safety during the pandemic. We are seeing through the interactions just how concerned children are – and they are telling Santa they are hungry, or sharing that a relative passed away.
It is heartbreaking at times, but we are comforted by the fact that Santa is offering an empathetic and comforting outlet,” said StoryFile CEO Heather Smith. “Ask Santa answers these questions and shows the spirit of the holiday is about compassion and community more than ever--not just gifts. That said, many children still ask Christmas specific questions, and ‘Am I on the naughty or nice list?’ is still a top question!”
What makes Ask Santa stand above the entire Santa business sector, is that when children ask Santa a question, they receive direct and immediate answers and responses. StoryFile’s technology means that children can have face-to-face conversations that are very much needed in today’s socially and physically distanced world. In addition, children are writing in letters to Santa and receiving responses from Santa and his team within 24 hours.
Top questions and subjects asked of Santa include:
- How Santa stays safe this year
- Requests to help ill family/friends
- Tell me a story
- Why do we give gifts
- Naughty or Nice list
- What is your real name
- How old are you
- What are the best gifts to give for Christmas *Data compiled anonymously through transcription by StoryFile. Ask Santa is KidSafe accredited.
When asking about COVID-19 specifically, Santa answers their questions by:
- Assuring children that he and the elves were safe and that Christmas was not cancelled.
- Assuring children that he will be safe on Christmas and follow safety rules. (Santa also shows the kids his mask to make them feel at ease and confirm he and his team follow the safety precautions).
- As a caring and empathetic individual, Santa resonates with the kids and shares warm words for any who may be experiencing any fear or loss.
“2020 has been really hard for so many people, but Christmas will still be awesome if we remember what it's all about,” our Santa, also known as Santa Cortney, told ABC News. “That’s why I’m so happy that AskSanta.com is free and that children can talk to me for as long as they want. Ho Ho Ho!”
In a partnership with the American Heart Association (AHA) and the Red Sled Foundation, Ask Santa is encouraging anyone that is able to make a holiday donation to help kids in need. 100% of donations made on the Ask Santa website will go directly to the AHA, inspiring kids and adults alike to be “heart heroes” this holiday season.