White House Christmas goes digital

The Obamas deck the digital halls with updated holiday flash.

By Mary Papenfuss
This was part of last year's White House decorations. Wait til you see this year's. UPI/Kevin Dietsch
This was part of last year's White House decorations. Wait til you see this year's. UPI/Kevin Dietsch | License Photo

WASHINGTON, Dec. 1 (UPI) -- Ho ho high-tech is the revolutionary new theme of the elaborate Christmas decorations at the White House this year.

The dozen or so trees inside the White House and the 20-foot fir outside will be joined this year by matching robot versions of the first family's dogs, motion sensors, "crowd-sourced" tree-lighting and a digital snowscape that will capture the movement of viewers.


The Obamas are also releasing what they're billing as the first-ever interactive White House holiday card, which appears to be pretty much a one-way video.

The tech-iness is in part intended to underscore the administration's support for the "Maker Movement" as it encourages American businesses to step up with technology, and offers federal agency expertise, research and resources to small and mid-size U.S. manufacturers.

The White House recently appointed Cornell graduate student Stephanie Santoso as its Maker Movement adviser, and it turned out she knows how to design a dog robot. So the "Bo-bot" and pal Sunny-bot are making their debut this month, with Sunny responding with a turn of its head to admiring crowds, thanks to motion sensors.


The crowdsourced part the of the display? Lights on the 56 trees representing states and territories in President's Park near the White House will flash in patterns coded online by girls across the country.

Besides giving a nod to technology, the decorations will also honor members of the military and their families. The official White House tree will be highlighted with ornaments decorated by children living in U.S. military bases around the world.

Tom Hanks and his wife, actress Rita Wilson, will host the National Christmas Tree lighting in President's Park on Dec. 4.

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