Niagara Gazette

December 26, 2013

TECHNOLOGY: Couple creates program that offers personalized visit from Santa.

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Niagara Gazette

Niagara Gazette — When Russ Pierce settled down for a long winter’s nap last Christmas Eve, there weren’t visions of sugarplums dancing in his head.

But, he was dreaming about Santa Claus. And that dream has come to life this Christmas in way that is touching people around the world.

It all started out so simply, the way these things often do. Russ, a retired Niagara Falls water board inspector who lives in Appleton, had bought his wife, Katherine, a computer tablet for Christmas last year. Before he wrapped it, he used it to search for a fun holiday app he could download on the tablet, as a sort of digital card.

In a twinkling, he had searched the globe and found virtually nothing. Disappointed, he went to bed, but in his sleep that Christmas Eve, the Santa Claus app made its first appearance in his dreams. Christmas morning, after the tablet was unwrapped and appreciated, he told his wife about the app he had dreamed of.

“She thought it was a really cool idea,” he said.

Both Katherine, a nurse practitioner for two internists in Lewiston, and her husband Russ, have rather fond memories of Christmases past. Raising their blended family, they didn’t always have a lot of money so each of their four sons would get one big gift, hidden away in the house, with clues tucked in their stockings. The boys would spend more time looking for presents than opening them, but everyone seemed to enjoy the hunt.

Because of those happy memories, Katherine was captivated by her husband’s dream of an app that could be personalized with photos of a child’s home to make it appear Santa had visited and left lots of gifts.

It was Katherine who did the footwork to bring the app to market. She found a company in Clarence to animate their Santa program. The result was a product that they say is easy to use and yet kind of magical.

“The finished product is an app exactly the way I envisioned it,” Russ said. “You would see your house. You would see Santa come out of the sky in a bright flash and hoover around your house, and then Santa would reappear by your Christmas tree.”

In the video, Santa also leaves gifts and eats cookies in the child’s home, as well as scribbling a personalized note that parents or grandparents can print and give to the children.  After downloading the app to a mobile device, users simply follow the guidelines to create the video. They are asked to take one picture of the outside of their home, one picture of the room where the Christmas tree stands with gifts already under it, and one last picture of the room where Santa’s milk and cookies rest. Then they will be asked to enter the names of the children receiving the gifts as a means of personalizing the letter from Santa. The finished video can be shared through Facebook, YouTube or email.

Mark Didas, president of Wavespawn in Clarence, said the Santa app was “one of the most exciting projects we’ve worked on.”  

Didas said he takes pride in the design, which assembles the many pieces required for an app to stream easily on all kinds of phones and computers in a simple way.

“I think I’m most proud and pleased that we were able to do that,” he said.

The Pierces are pretty proud as well.

“We wanted something that would bring delight to the grandparents as well as the parents. We thought this would be perfect,” Kathleen said.

Called “Santa Visits Our House 2013,” the app is available for Apple and Android smartphones and tablets, and sells for $1.99 on iTunes and Google play. Although it just went on sale in November, it has already been purchased by users from the United Arab Emirates, Japan, Russia and Ireland.  

If things continue to go well, the Pierces plan to create versions featuring the Tooth Fairy and the Easter Bunny.

But, in the meantime, they plan to let the guy in the red suit do all the heavy lifting. Because Russ already has his best Christmas present ever. Bringing his app to life, he said, “is my wife’s way of making my Christmas dreams come true.”



Santa App

• WHAT: “Santa Visits My House 2013,” a cell phone and computer application that can be personalized for children.

• WHERE: The app costs $1.99 and can be purchased at iTunes.com or on Google Games.

• CONTACT: For more information visit www.magicalmoviememories.com.