Net evolves: Meet interactive elf

In the beginning, there was the Dancing Banana -- and it was good, at least as far as Internet amusements went.

Ever since that hyperactive banana hit the Net in 2000, we've witnessed a rise in both the sophistication and interactive nature of this sort of Net fluff that gets passed along via e-mail, IM, and blog postings. And it's not only creative developer types spawning them for their own amusement and notoriety. Companies are leveraging the Web medium to effectively spark viral marketing campaigns -- which not only give themselves some potentially inexpensive publicity, but also can showcase some rather inventive uses of ever-evolving Web technology.

Case in point: OfficeMax has launched an entertaining "Elf Yourself" campaign that generated plenty of chuckles and guffaws (as well as some eye-rolling and snorts of derision) at the InfoWorld office.

The idea is, you upload a photo of yourself (or someone else). After a couple of steps to properly size the pic, the Web app will generate an animation of an elf grooving to some swing-y Christmas music -- with its face being the picture you've uploaded. Want a sample? See Sir Bill the Elf get his groove on.

OK, that bit's not necessarily sophisticated, and it's been done before (e.g. the "Wedding Crashers" Web promotion from a couple of years ago).

The interesting bit is, once you've uploaded the image, you can add a voice message for the elf to utter as it dances and prances about. When I first visited the site, I assumed a mic was needed, but no; the Web site gives you a phone number and a code. Dial the number, follow the prompts to enter your code and record your message -- and within moments, the little elf is "speaking" it (though it's sped up to sound more elfish).

Now granted, this isn't the most useful application of Web 2.0 technology -- but it's still a pretty inventive creation. I was particularly impressed by how quickly the voice and animation were stitched together -- though the one I made with voice (not posted here) was done later in the evening, because I got a busy signal trying to record a message during the day.

Oh, and on a semi-related holiday Net-fluff note, there's also the Simon Sez Santa 2.0 site, which is sort of a rip-off of Burger King's infamous and disturbing Subservient Chicken -- but still fun.

Do you have any entertaining seasonal sites to share?

To comment on this article and other InfoWorld content, visit InfoWorld's LinkedIn page, Facebook page and Twitter stream.
From CIO: 8 Free Online Courses to Grow Your Tech Skills
Notice to our Readers
We're now using social media to take your comments and feedback. Learn more about this here.