Chris Wilms (@cwilms-loyalist) is spreading the holiday cheer with a unique interactive installation. In several locations on the Loyalist College campus in Ontario, Canada, Chris has set up photo booths where folks can take selfies to decorate a virtual Christmas tree.

As a Senior AV and Media Systems Technologist in the Information Technology Services (ITS) department, Chris has used Vuo before to enhance students’ college experience with a graphics system for convocation ceremonies. He’s also created an NDICast app and a SyphonCast app. In this community spotlight, Chris shares his merriest project #MadeWithVuo.

One of Chris's interactive Christmas trees on the Loyalist College campus

“This was a project I first made in 2019 a little after Vuo 2.0 first came out, in fact it was my very first v2.0 installation. I originally gave Jaymie a glimpse of it, but at the time I didn’t have proper rights for the images I had used so couldn’t in good faith share this project with the rest of the community. However, since then I’ve purchased the tree and star models from Turbosquid and have remade the imagery for this new updated version.

“I had the idea a few years ago but it was really the new additions to Vuo 2.0 that made it all possible (I’m looking at you, face detection; you even work with masks ON which is amazing! …although I had the add a couple Hold nodes to increase reliability a little). ☺️

“I first put this project on display back in 2019 when I decided to surprise my coworkers with an interactive Christmas tree for the holidays and set it up in our Service Desk area. We brought it out again in 2020 as a morale booster during the pandemic. It brought some needed smiles and laughs but due to limited numbers on campus it only saw a little participation. However, two weeks ago we set it up again and decided to move it from our office area out into the hallway; with students back on campus this year things have kind of exploded! I’ve had requests from other departments for one too and we are installing a total of 3 (possibly 4 systems) around the College and the students are LOVING it!

Chris's diagram showing how all the pieces of the installation go together

“The virtual Christmas tree is essentially a customized Photobooth running on an iMac, using its built-in iSight camera. There are on-screen instructions to guide the user through the experience and sounds for the countdown timer and the camera shutter. Face detection is used to reduce the numbers of “empty” pictures because photos are only triggered if a face is actually present when the button is pressed. Face detection also prompts a fun little message to encourage people to smile for their photo. The messages are also customized to whether there is a single person or a group in front of the camera.

The "customized Photobooth"

“The USB Button was made by integrating an Arduino Pro Micro programmed to act as a serial HID device (thank you, Jaymie, for your help in the forums with this part) which is wired to a modified Staples “Easy Button”. The newest versions I am installing will use a basic HID button purchased from Amazon which makes this project a little more scalable.

Staples “Easy Button” and Arduino Pro Micro

“The tree itself is displayed on a portrait-mounted HDTV. When the button is pressed it takes your picture, adding it to the large center ornament on the Christmas tree. (For privacy reasons for our students, all faces not wearing masks have been blurred.)

“There are 15 ornaments total, with the center largest ornament always showing the most recent photo taken. When a new photo is taken the system saves the image to a designated folder on the computer. Every 60 seconds the other 14 ornaments smoothly transition to another random photo from the designated image folder. There is also a default ornament photo that fills in any ornament that doesn’t yet have a photo; this was needed to account for the start of the installation when there are fewer than 14 photos available in the folder.”

Ornaments on the Christmas tree