10 Ways Halloween is Getting Smart This Year
Ghosts of Halloweens Past
Halloween used to be a simple affair. You’d carve up a few pumpkins into jack-o-lanterns for seasonal decorations, buy a few bags of fun size candy to give to the local kids who came knocking, cut holes in some old white sheets for ghost costumes, grab an old pillowcase for your stash, and hit the neighbourhood in search of tricks or treats.
Maybe you went to a party.
Maybe you had a more elaborate costume.
Maybe you watched a scary movie.
But that was about it.
Today, however, Halloween is a much more involved holiday. There are decorations, for starters — lots of decorations. The choice of costumes is overwhelming, unless you decide to make your own, in which case, you probably need to be handy with a sewing machine, a bedazzler, and a hot glue gun. And it’s not enough to simply give out candy — lots of homeowners create a spectacle of their front lawns, with lights and sounds and props galore.
And of course, we’re now in the age of the smart home, the Internet of Things. Our gadgets and appliances and basically our whole lives are integrated and synced and automated; why should our Halloween experience be any different? Halloween is getting smarter every year, and this year we could see some significant leaps forward in terms of wired decor, effects, and more. Here are ten ways in which Halloween is getting smart.
1. Everything’s on your Smartphone’s remote
At some point in the last decade or so, people started putting up lights for Halloween like they might put up lights for Christmas. Tiny orange or red lights, strings of Frankenstein heads or little pumpkins, maybe a few ghost shapes — those were all appropriate. However, like Christmas lights, they were either on or off.
Now, with all the affordable smart plugs and outlets on the market, including options from Belkin, Philips, iDevices, and iHome, among others, any string of electric lights can be programmed and controlled remotely with an ordinary smartphone. Oh, and it’s not just lights you can use with these smart plugs. Spooky sound effects, fog machines, and just about anything else that requires current to operate can be plugged in and made smart.
2. Spooky projections
If you already own a projector, Halloween is a great day to disconnect it from your Blu-ray player or video game console and use it to create a frightful ambiance by projecting spooky photos and videos on the exterior of your home or even your windows.
However, you don’t have to go out and buy an expensive projector just to make this happen. Instead, standalone lights with rotating images are more affordable at around £40 or £50, and they’ll do a great job of making your home feel like the neighbourhood’s Halloween destination.Buy on Amazon
3. Halloween creepy animatronics
Want to give a good scare to trick or treaters, but don’t feel like standing outside all night in the cold? You may want to check out the Halloween animatronics available at your local big box hardware store or Halloween shop.
Many are lifelike goblins, mummies, or witches, while others are skeleton dogs or ghosts. The creepy animated part is typically activated via infra-red sensor, so they only turn on when a visitor is near, and many are battery powered, so you don’t even need to run a cord to plug it in.
Animatronics can be somewhat expensive, running anywhere from £35 for a small crawling zombie to a whopping £275 for a zombie horde. Still, if your seasonal joy comes from some playful fright, a Halloween animatronic or two may be a worthwhile investment.
4. Drones as witches or ghosts
You normally use your quadcopter drone for taking awesome overhead shots, but on Halloween, have some fun with it by dressing it up like a ghost and scaring the wits out of everyone.
It’s not a difficult project at all: a lightweight skeleton head and an old sheet are all you need to make it happen. Witches are equally easy to make.
Just make sure that the materials you’re using don’t weigh down your device too much, and you’ll have a flying frightcopter that will be the talk of the neighbourhood.See on Amazon
5. Programmable lighting displays
A programmable light controller, a bunch of lights, and a big imagination are all you need to create an audio-synced Halloween light display that’s worthy of going viral. Plug in your lights (many controllers can take up to 16 inputs, which gives you a lot of freedom), put your audio in the sequencer software such as Aurora, and start fidgeting with the controls.
Programming a light display can take a while, especially if you’ve got a lot of lights and a longer soundtrack, but the results are, as you’ve no doubt seen on YouTube, spectacular — or should we say spooktacular? Neighbours will love the entertainment, and who knows? Perhaps you’ll be the proud author of the next viral sensation. Controllers are made by Light-o-Rama, Monster Guts, and other companies.
6. Smart cams to see who’s ringing
If you have an outdoor smart camera or a smart doorbell equipped with a camera, such as a Nest Outdoor Cam, a SkyBell HD, an August doorbell camera, and others, Halloween is the perfect night to use this technology to your advantage.
When the doorbell rings, take a look at who’s there. If it’s a gaggle of four year old girls dressed as their favourite princesses, perhaps you should tone down the creepy factor. If, on the other hand, you see a group of teenagers trying to fill their sacks up with sweets, then by all means, go ahead and scare the life out of them.
A smart cam is also useful for picking up on ring-and-runners; to quote the late, great Orson Welles, “If your doorbell rings and no one’s there, that was no Martian. It’s Halloween.”Buy on Amazon
7. Smart bulbs to orange
One of the most impressive features about smart bulbs, like those from Philips, LIFX, and Belkin, is that they can be controlled via smartphone from anywhere.
But another great feature that’s especially useful on Halloween is that they can illuminate in any one of over 16 million colours.
On October 31, you can easily change the lighting in your home to a vibrant orange; imagine how amazing that will look on a dark Halloween night! Best of all, when you’re all out of candy and the evening’s festivities are over, you can put them back to soft white at the tap of a screen.Buy on Amazon
8. Sensors are out to be tripped
If you’d rather have your electric Halloween decorations switch on and off via motion sensor instead of app, that’s a great option. Motion sensors from brands like D-Link, Samsung, Philips, and others can be programmed to switch on lights, sounds, fog, or whatever when it senses someone in close proximity.
Aside from being totally spooky, motion sensors can actually enhance safety for your local trick or treaters. They’re reactive, and you can use them to light the path to your door or just create more visibility as the little goblins and ghouls make their way to your candy bowl.See on Amazon
9. Locating the good stuff
Super organised trick or treaters, probably those in their teens or the tech savvy parents of younger children, can use social media to indicate where the good candy is in town and where the lower end treats are.
You know: the people who are giving away full size chocolate bars versus those who are handing out, say, those generic wax paper-wrapped peanut butter chews that no one really likes.
And yes, of course, there’s an app for that! You can download and log in to the Nextdoor app’s Treat Map to see where the candy is in your neighbourhood. It’s for both iOS and Android, and it’s free.
10. Connected costumes
Smart Halloween costumes are probably a few years off, but within the next few years, you can probably expect to see superheroes, fairies, ghosts, and more with built-in GPS chips to let parents know where they are along with an activity tracker to see how far they’ve travelled for goodies.
Plus, connected costumes may eventually be able to interact with smart Halloween displays (so the really scary stuff is turned on only for larger sized costumes rather than toddler sized ones), as well as other smart costumes.
They may also light up as the night falls, providing more safety to wearers.
Have a Safe, Smart Halloween!
Clearly, the ways in which we celebrate October 31 are evolving with our digital technology. We’re no longer just trick or treating — we’re out for a full-on, audio/visual multisensory experience. There are lights and sounds, fog and animations, and when neighbours get competitive over who has the best display, we’re all winners. From all of us at Appcessories, have a fun, safe, and smart Halloween!
What are you doing to ramp up your Halloween festivities? Leave us a comment and tell us about it!
See recommended smart home devices on Amazon
Nest Learning Thermostat
Philips Hue Starter Kit