Going Hi-tech for Halloween

I've noticed this year, more than ever, that technology seems to be playing a big role in Halloween. No, I'm not talking about websites like halloween.com or spirithalloween.com , I'm talking about how technology has impacted decorations and parties.

Animatronics (a portmanteau of animate and electronics) is arguably the area of Halloween that has been most impacted by technology. Looking at a site such as hauntedprops.com and browsing its animatronics section will raise an eyebrow or two. I thought some of the moving creatures at my local Halloween shop were expensive at $300. Now I appreciate the fact that they can go up to close to ten thousand dollars for a fully animated headless horsemen. Just what every family home needs.

A few years ago I wrote a column about using a projector to create "spooky" effects for visitors to your home. The idea is still a good one - take a notebook computer with a webcam and point it towards the entrance of your home. Send the output of the laptop with the image to a projector and instead of worrying about a real screen, use an old bed sheet or white painting sheet as your projection surface. The ripples in the fabric will just add to the effect. (You could also "accidentally" spill some ketchup on it too.) For myself, we're having our biannual video game party Game Night with a Halloween theme (it's dubbed Game Night: Spooky Edition) and I've decided to use technology once again to enhance the mood. In the backyard I'll tack old paint sheets to the fence and project videos of the Top 10 Scariest Video Games of All Time. Something that doesn't necessarily need to be heard but is definitely great when seen.

If there is enough time, I have some extra projectors that I could use to create slide shows of previous events to have the party-goers try and find themselves in the parade of pictures. Instead of using DVD players or computers to produce the images for the projector, I'll be using tiny media players and streaming devices like I discussed last week. Not only do they consume less power, they take up less space and without any moving parts are very reliable - especially if I hide them in a tree.

If you are not having a party but just want to spruce up the place for the trick-or-treaters that will soon be knocking at your door, why not consider creating more of an atmosphere? Sound is one of the most effective ways to do this and with portable music players being so easy to use these days you could create a Halloween playlist on your device and wirelessly connect it to one of the various Bluetooth speaker solutions out there (personally I've been enjoying the products from fluance.com ). Now your visitors will have something to be scared about!

Finally, you might consider lighting effects. I've seen strobe lights, battery operated candles, and a host of other devices that light up which effectively add to the mood of Halloween. Of course, things that combine all aspects are a lot of fun too, such as an animatronic that makes sounds when it detects motion and lights up. It's also pretty expensive.

So whether you celebrate this "holiday" or not, there is no denying that technology is playing a bigger role. From free Halloween apps that you can put on your mobile device, to things in your home that enhance the experience, it's something fun to do and work on before we get down to the ideas of another big holiday that is now looming in the distance. No matter which way you go, enjoy the thrills and chills of the season and the most important thing is to be safe! Happy Halloween.

The Personal Computer Museum is hosting Game Night: Spooky Edition, a video game event for families with a Halloween theme today from 7:30 PM until 1:00 AM. There will be over two thousand dollars worth of prizes, 40 different game stations to play on, as well as food and beverages. Tickets are $10 for adults and $5 for children 12 and under. The address is 13 Alma Street and more information can be found at gamenight.ca Syd Bolton is the curator of the Personal Computer Museum and the manager of Information Technology at ACIC/Methapharm.

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