Google's Santa Tracker tools are set to begin tracking the big red-suited holiday gift-giver in real time starting at 5 p.m. ET on Dec. 24 as St. Nick prepares to head out on his annual gift distribution run around the world along with his reindeer friends, including the famous red-nosed Rudolph.
This year, Google created some fun and modern ways to track Santa, including an all-new Android mobile app that lets users play games with Santa's elves in the Christmas Village and follow Santa's route on a television using a Google Chromecast TV dongle. Santa fans will also be able to search for "Santa" in the new Google Maps on Christmas Eve so they can see where he is at any moment in time, according to Google. Plus, viewers will be able to count down the minutes before Santa's takeoff by downloading a Chrome Web browser extension that will show his progress.
"To join in the flurry of preparations for Christmas Eve, visit the Village every day through December 24," wrote Sandy Russell, Google's elf creative director for the Santa Tracker program, in a recent post on the Official Google Blog. "You'll have the chance to join the elves as they catapult presents and race with reindeer—and you'll be able to send holiday wishes to friends and family from Santa himself. The elves make a little more progress each day, so be sure to stop by the Village to see the latest."
To accurately track Santa's holiday travels, "a team of Google engineers are working hard to track Santa's sleigh with the most advanced maps and holiday technology available," wrote Russell. "On December 24, grab some cookies and apple cider and settle down in front of your computer, phone or TV to follow the big guy across the globe with our Santa Tracker. See where Santa's going, the number of presents he's delivered, and what he's thinking throughout the evening," all of which will be displayed on the Tracker.
Mobile device users will be able to use their phone or tablet to get "on-the-go flight practice with the elves" as well as to follow Santa around the world virtually as he delivers presents on Christmas Eve, according to Russell. "If you have Chromecast, cast from the Santa Tracker Android app to explore the Village or track his route right from your TV. Or, worried you'll forget the big day? Download the Chrome extension to count down to Santa's takeoff while browsing the web for holiday gifts."
Google has been tracking Santa's big night each year since 2004 using Google Earth, according to the search giant. Google first launched the Chrome Santa tracking tools for Christmas in 2012.
Google formerly also partnered with NORAD to track Santa's travels on Christmas Eve, but Microsoft took over that arrangement as of Christmas 2012. NORAD had been tracking Santa using Google every year since 2007, using Google Maps and Google Earth. This year, Microsoft is again working with NORAD to track St. Nick's progress on Christmas Eve, according to the company.
NORAD has been "officially" tracking Santa's holiday travels since 1955, according to the urban legend Website clearinghouse Snopes.com.