NORAD Tracks Santa project goes 3D, touch-device optimized with some help from Microsoft

The following post is from Roger Capriotti, senior director of product marketing, Microsoft.


The redesigned homepage for NORAD Tracks Santa.

Every December, the North American Aerospace Defense Command (“NORAD”) serves the important role of ensuring that Santa’s journey around the world is safe. Since 1955, children of all ages have tracked his route with the help of NORAD’s radar, satellites and jet fighters. This year, Microsoft has lent a hand to make the experience the most magical yet, putting a fresh spin on the time-honored tradition with the launch of the new www.NORADSanta.org.

This isn’t the first time Microsoft has worked with NORAD Tracks Santa. Last year, we provided our interactive Bing Maps to give people at home an interactive visual of Santa’s whereabouts on Christmas Eve, which was powered by Windows Azure, as well as apps for Windows and Windows Phone that allowed people a platform to play and learn.

This year, we are raising the bar particularly around the Web experience, which brings holiday cheer to tens of millions of people every year. The Internet Explorer team in particular had a vision for how to fuse the possibilities of the modern Web with the magic of Santa. Inspired by NORAD Tracks Santa’s long history and the Claymation style classic holiday movies, the Internet Explorer team partnered with NORAD to rebuild the Web experience from the ground up.

Santa’s interactive North Pole Village is featured on www.NORADSanta.org

Santa’s interactive North Pole Village is featured on www.NORADSanta.org.

The new online experience is more than just a way to track Santa on Dec. 24. It lets you immerse yourself in the holiday throughout the month of December. With a nostalgic, 3D Claymation look and feel, the new site features a recreation of Santa’s village that you can explore to discover new games daily, music, videos and more. The site is fully touch-enabled, which makes for a truly immersive experience, if you are using a touch device. On Dec. 24, a touch-enabled 3-D globe will light up as Santa begins his journey worldwide. With a modern browser like IE11, you will be able to spin the globe with a swipe of a finger and pinch and zoom to get an in-depth look at Santa’s stops. Bing Maps is at the heart of the journey again. Whether you’re mapping Santa’s route in a browser on a computer or in an app, you’ll see beautiful, high-fidelity images. Bing Maps is the canvas on which Santa’s journey is plotted.

“The Internet Explorer team and everyone at Microsoft have taken the spirit of the holidays that’s central to what we do with NORAD Tracks Santa and helped bring it to today’s modern web and devices,” Stacey Knott, NORAD Tracks Santa Program Manager, told us. “We’re hearing so many fun comments from people who are checking out the new website and apps and love what they see.”

Of course, the magic doesn’t stop there. Many people love to watch Santa’s progress on the site, and call the NORAD hotline to get the latest news straight from the command center. While you can still dial the number from a telephone, voice calling enabled by Skype this year means that with just one click, you and your kids can interact with the NORAD Tracks Santa Command Center to check in on Santa’s status any time you want.

 Santa’s arcade is one of the featured games on the site. New ones are available daily leading up to Christmas.

Santa’s arcade is one of the featured games on the site. New ones are available daily leading up to Christmas.

We’ve also made it easier than ever to track Santa with apps for Windows 8, Windows 8.1 and Windows Phone. The Windows 8 and Windows 8.1 apps will feature live tiles that allow you to track Santa straight from your start screen. And behind the curtain, Windows Azure keeps the whole thing running amidst the incredibly high traffic anticipated for Dec. 24.

This has been quite the journey for us, though it’s nothing compared to the one Santa will make later this December. For a look into NORAD’s history and our work with them, check out our mini-documentary on modernizing the tradition. And, make sure to try your hand at the games unveiled each day and track Santa on Dec. 24 at www.NORADSanta.org.

You might also be interested in:

•    Students: Your school might be able to give you Office 365 at no cost through Microsoft’s new Student Advantage benefit
•    See the most popular Bing searches of 2013
•    Before you hit the mall, download these Windows Phone apps