Virtual Holiday Cheer
Going home for the holidays and celebrating during the holiday can be challenging for folks. The cost and time off for travel as well current living arrangements, such as soldiers overseas or expats working in other countries, can dramatically limit the sharing of ‘merry holiday’ times. Technology can help bridge these geographic and economic gaps to enable a ‘jolly good time’ for all. Virtual environments and technology enable us to connect with our loved ones, visit our home town for a nostalgic tour, go on a much needed vacation, engage in charitable activities, and celebrate the holidays.
I have some great examples as well as a personal story to share.
Connecting with your loved ones virtually:
Cisco set up ‘Home for the Holidays‘ for Cisco employees a couple of years ago. The program was enthusiastically embraced and is back in 2009. Hundreds of meetings are expected to be scheduled, and many families and friends will be able to spend time together and even exchange and open presents together. Cisco teams also use Telepresence for holding their holiday celebrations, in conjunction with a business meeting of course 😉
Taking a tour of your home town while waxing nostalgic with your loved ones can easily be done using tools like Google Earth in conjunction with VoIP tools such as WebEx or Skype. Below is a quote from an article featuring a gentleman in New Zealand doing just this to connect with his family and tour Yorkshire.
Yorkshire ex-pat Adrian Hill, now a resident and New Zealand national, says he’s looking forward to a virtual holiday back to his home town in 2009. Adrian, an electronics engineer, who emigrated in 2001, says:
“I love the Yorkshire and miss it on a daily basis.
“The pound may be low at the moment but it still costs an awful lot of money – and time – to fly back to Britain and to my beloved Yorkshire.
“To be honest, I’d rather stay here in beautiful New Zealand and take a virtual walk round the old place – even revisiting my father’s house in Leeds while talking to him using one of the popular voice-over-internet protocols devices.
I for one will be connecting with my Virginia based family, including my new niece Ryan, via a WebEx session. We will share videos, pictures, and laughs together virtually since we can’t be together in person.
Holiday charity done virtually:
Giving back during the holiday is something we all should do but don’t always find the time to fit in during the season. Virtual options make it easier than ever to do your part. The Alameda County Food Bank has a virtual food drive. They highlight the ease of participation as well as the positive environmental impact, no fuel for the trucks to pick up the food donations, of a virtual food drive and enable groups and individuals to easily create a challenge and the tools to promote it.
Second Life is also a great vehicle for virtual charity. The New Year is about celebrating new possibilities and supporting someone to achieve their dream is a great way to give back. The micro-lending non-profit Kiva.org recently conducted a contest calling for virtual wreaths to be submitted and now the winning wreaths (see one of the winners to the right) are on sale with 100% of the proceeds going to Kiva.org.
Celebrating the holiday virtually:
For those who really want a tree to decorate but cannot for some reason there is a fun Google gadget that allows you to decorate your own desktop tree. You can complete the effect by loading one of the seemingly hundreds of virtual fireplaces available on YouTube.
Of course giving gifts is part of the holiday experience and everyone has that difficult person to shop for, which often times results in purchasing a gift card to some retail location. Home Depot is offering a fun augmented reality card this year. Your gift recipient can simply wave the card in front a webcam to open their box and see an interactive list of things they can choose to place in it. Check it out below.
I would love to hear your examples and get your feedback on how technology effects your holiday celebrations and connections. Hope you enjoy your holiday, happy 2010 to all!