|Source: NVIDIA blog. Merry Old Santa Claus by Thomas|
Nast from the January 1, 1881 edition of Harper’s Weekly,
is one of the earliest drawings of the holiday icon
showing him the way he is depicted today, complete with
a red suit. (Image credit: Wikimedia Commons,
licensed under public domain).
When paired with the latest Internet browsers, WebGL can take advantage of NVIDIA GPUs to render detailed images based on NORAD’s real-time data.
Hannah Pinkos, Software Developer, Cesium said, “It’s really fun that the app that I work on gets visited by millions of children. I would have loved this when I was growing up, to be able to watch Santa in 3D.”
Footage of Santa’s travels has been upgraded over the years, most recently with a particle system that lets viewers see a trail of snow and sparkles behind an animated 3D model of Santa as he flies across the globe. The NORAD Santa Tracker draws more than 20 million visitors each December 24. Today, they can even zoom in as Santa travels. This year, the sparkles and snowflakes will be visible on both the desktop and mobile versions of the site.
NORAD began tracking Santa in 1955, when a newspaper ad misprinted a call-in number for Santa. Callers ended up reaching the operations hotline at the Continental Air Defense (CONAD) Command Air Operations Center – the predecessor to NORAD – in the US.
Colonel Harry Shoup, then director of operations, had his staff use CONAD’s network to track, and report on, Santa’s progress to children calling the number. The tradition continues every year, with military staffers answering phone calls from small children.
Today, NORAD shares this information through the web, a dedicated mobile app, and social media. The NORAD Santa tracker page has more than 1.8 million followers on Facebook. More than 1,500 staffers run the hotline, which receives around 150,000 calls each year.
NORAD’s efforts over the past six decades have yielded these insights:
- Typically, Santa begins his journey in the South Pacific. Then, as night falls, he travels to Australia and New Zealand, before continuing west.
- Data also shows he likely has rosy cheeks from riding his sleigh in cold weather, and weighs about 118 kg (before milk and cookies).
- NORAD tracks Santa through the infrared signal from Rudolph's red nose.
The Santa Tracker webpage lets children explore the North Pole all through December. On Christmas Eve, as soon as Santa’s sleigh takes flight, site visitors can find live updates on his location and footage from Santa cams stationed around the world.
For live updates of Santa’s location throughout Christmas Eve, follow @NoradSanta on Twitter.
Call the hotline at +1 877 HI NORAD (translates to +1 877 44 66723; Skype calls accepted)