Digitally animated ugly Christmas sweaters bring the kitsch to a new level

Digitally animated Christmas sweaters

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By Julianne Pepitone

December is a time for reminiscing, eggnog and ugly Christmas sweater parties. It can be hard to out-ugly your coworker with the glittery Rudolph sweater -- but an animated Rudolph sweater just might make you the center of the soiree.

This holiday season, Morph Costumes is selling its second batch of Digital Dudz Christmas sweaters, each of which come with a strategically placed pocket that holds your smartphone but keeps the screen visible. Download a smartphone app that plays the animation, pop in your phone, and voila: Santa's legs kick out of a chimney, flames roar in a fireplace, a kitten in a Santa hat blinks its eyes.

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The party trick, which is pricey at $50 to $60 for one of the 10 sweaters, is the brainchild of an ex-NASA engineer who worked on the Curiosity rover for seven years. 

"I think the name of the game for ugly Christmas sweaters is: the more ridiculous, the better," Mark Rober told

For Halloween 2011, Rober created a costume that used two iPads FaceTime-ing each other to make it look like he had a gaping wound clear through his chest. He uploaded a how-to video to YouTube that quickly went viral (the video now has more than 4 million views), and the reaction inspired him to work on more techy costumes

Rober eventually founded a company around the idea, called Digital Dudz, in fall 2012, and merged it with UK-based Morph Costumes a year ago. That's when he quit his NASA gig after nine years.

Celebs including Miley Cyrus and Pee-Wee Herman have tweeted about the sweaters, and Rober himself "got a ton of attention, people asking for photos" when he wore one to a New York City nightclub last week. Rober loves all of the designs, but he does have a particular favorite.

"I'm partial to the crackling fireplace," Rober said. "It’s the O.G. of animated Christmas sweaters."