As generative AI becomes increasingly advanced and tablet ownership becomes more widespread, there is one thing on everyone’s mind at this time of year—how will these developments change the Christmas landscape?

‘Santatech’ and its enabling technologies

Though GlobalData has noted declining Apple iPad net sales in Q2 of 2023 as compared to Q2 of 2022, the global tablet market includes several other producers including Samsung, Lenovo, and Huawei. That is to say that there is no shortage of ways to track Santa’s movements in the lead-up to Christmas Eve with just a tablet, not accounting for smartphones, desktops, or wearables.

While tracking his movements is easy enough, experiencing St Nicholas is more difficult. The simplest way is to of course wait for Christmas Day, see the presents under the tree, and feel the festive energy in the air that he has left behind along with the remains of a mince pie and a carrot and whatever drink has been left out for him by the fireplace.

Alternatively, if looking for something to do on weekends or school holidays, children can visit Father Christmas at their local Santa’s Grotto, which can be conveniently found in town halls, schools, and even Tower Gateway DLR station for London-based festive fans. Some people even have Santa visit their homes for a quick chat before the main event, although dads everywhere seem to consistently miss out on this amazing opportunity. If TMT Predictions 2024 had included a set of ‘Santatech’ predictions, fathers would certainly be counted among the losers.

Disruptor in chief – generative AI

One potential disruptor to the Santatech space is generative AI. This technology can produce self-prompting, photo-realistic avatars of Father Christmas that people can interact with in much the same way as they could on FaceTime, for example. There is also potential for the metaverse to be a space in which people can interact with an artificially generated Santa in a virtual grotto—though the metaverse winter (that GlobalData predicts will continue) will have to thaw before this becomes a reality.

iPad kids and the wonder of Christmas

However, we should perhaps be wary of developing generative AI to this extent. Such development could enhance the damage done to so-called ‘iPad kids’, children who—having been given an iPad or another such tablet from a very young age—are noted as struggling with imagination, attention spans, and patience. These are all qualities that are important to Santa, both in terms of fully appreciating the Christmas experience and the hard work that he puts in, but also as qualities that will contribute to a child being placed on the ‘Nice List’ as opposed to the ‘Naughty List’.

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The horror of a ‘carbon positive’ Christmas

The environmentally conscious among us are already concerned about global coal production, so the fewer ‘Naughty List’ recipients receiving lumps of the black stuff on Christmas, the better.

Ultimately, children having access to a generative AI Father Christmas would simply diminish the joy of the personal connections and experiences that have come to form a core part of the wonder of Christmas. Leaders in the global AI market should bear in mind the festive consequences before seeking to advance the capabilities of their products any further.