Google is taking its holiday celebration beyond the usual Santa Tracker app this year and has now added the ability to “call Santa” via its Google Home devices. The new functionality was shown off with a YouTube promotional video for the Google Home Mini on November 27 and lets kids – or adults – interact with St. Nick. Previously, the devices were only able to answer questions regarding Santa’s whereabouts, following in the same vein as the above-mentioned Santa Tracker app. This functionality has already been on offer by some dedicated Android applications in the Google Play Store and by several web-based services. With that said, it’s nice to see Google taking advantage of the novel opportunity provided by voice interactions with A.I. in order to help get those who still believe in Santa into the holiday spirit.
Using the feature should be fairly straightforward for anybody who has used Assistant or Google Home before. Users simply need to activate the device via the usual “Okay Google,” and then say “Call Santa.” Assistant will then make the “call,” connecting kids to a virtualized Santa Claus. The usual Google Assistant voice will be replaced by the voice of a jolly old man, which could easily be recognized as Santa Claus. Santa will then proceed to ask a series of questions, responding to the children’s responses in typical Google A.I. fashion, with answers aimed at replicating the personality of the mythological character that is commonly held by people. There’s also a holiday-geared sing-along involved for those kids who are brave enough to belt out a few lines alongside Santa Claus and his band – presumably a band of elves.
Since the new feature is tied directly to Google’s Assistant, it should work on any Google Home device and could feasibly even work on many Android handsets which have Google Assistant enabled. However, users shouldn’t be too surprised if this doesn’t work for their own mobile device. Typically, features celebrating holidays are tied to regional locations where they will have the most impact and some have reported that it isn’t working on every mobile device. So, there’s still no guarantee it will work outside of Google’s Home devices.