Say ‘Merry Christmas’ To Our Little Friend

A photo of our Santa Buddy in place awaiting your tweets

For this year’s seasonal festivities our technologists, Jon Jones and Mike Farrance, have come up with a fun little bit of tech to get you — and our team — in the Christmas mood.

Meet Buddy, our Twitter powered dancing Santa. When you tweet our Twitter account (@GrandVisual) with the words Merry Christmas, Buddy will spring into action. First, from our office jukebox, he’ll select a Christmas song to dance to. He’ll then create a little seasonal greeting to display on a small digital screen behind him. A camera grabs a shot of the screen and Buddy dancing along to the music, before tweeting the photo to you accompanied by a message telling you what song he chose for our entertainment.

Buddy works with the help of some nifty programming and physical computing. The Santa is connected to an arduino controller which is controlled by a Raspberry Pi. The Pi monitors our Twitter account, watching for tweets containing the phrase Merry Christmas. When it picks one up it selects a song from our festive playlist, and creates a Christmas card to display on the screen, whilst at the same time telling Santa to start dancing. A photo is then taken of Santa, the screen, and the tree, which is then packaged up with information about what song was played and tweeted in reply. Pretty straightforward really!

The other benefit of Buddy is that because we save a little money on Christmas cards, we’ve decided to make a donation to the mental health charity Mind.

So, want to see our Santa dance? Then get tweeting to our little friend — just wish us a Merry Christmas.