Virtual Reality, Projection Mapping Scare the Pants Off Kids (and Adults) This Halloween

Halloween is getting even spookier this year as VR, interactivity and projection mapping make its way into haunted houses by Universal Studios and Shocktoberfest.

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In a lot of ways, Halloween is a holiday that seems geared toward kids—after all, they’re the ones who walk around the neighborhood dressed in costumes collecting candy—but it’s really made for grownups.

Costume parties are all the rage on college campuses and at many bars and clubs across the country, where men and women of all ages choose their favorite superheroes, historical figures and (this year especially) presidential candidates to disguise themselves as for the night.

If we didn’t scare you enough with some ridiculous AV setups that are desperately in need of some professional help, we’ll try to do it again with a roundup of some of the spookiest Halloween technology around this year.

With virtual reality so much in the forefront of people’s minds these days, it’s no surprise the folks at Universal Orlando Resort are involved in pushing the technology to its spooky limits this Halloween. The Repository is what creators call “a cutting-edge – and terrifying – interactive experience that blends custom virtual reality technology with real-life characters and environments to create a whole new generation of psychological horror.”

With a huge assist from VR Studios, the people who brought you Halloween Horror Nights worked with Universal Creative to produce an immersive theater experience that bridges live action and VR.

Those who attended InfoComm 2016 shouldn’t be surprised VR Studios is involved in this ghoulish attraction, which captivated my attention. Little did I know the zombie fighting I was doing on the floor of the Las Vegas Convention Center would carry over into a Halloween-themed attraction.

Here’s a quick look at the VR Studios experience at Universal Orlando:

The Haunted Attraction Association (HAA) points to virtual reality, interactivity and blackout experiences – indoors and out – as this year’s top Halloween trends.

“Guests are not only having the chance to interact with the attractions, but now they’re also the leaders of their own destiny – whether it’s breaking out of an escape room, navigating a blackout maze or surviving the night at an outdoor sleepover – the guest is in full control…that is, until fear takes over,” said HAA president John Eslich.

Some of the coolest VR experiences at haunted attractions this year can be found at Creepy Hollow Haunted House outside Houston, which debuted a VReality zombie first-person shooter game, similar to the VR Studios demo at InfoComm 2016. Guests wear a VR headset which simulates being in a dark area with just a pistol and flashlight. Participants can hear zombies coming from all directions and must use the light to find and dispatch them before they get eaten.

Fear Factory, in Salt Lake City, added a new VR haunted house within which participants can slay zombies, while Ghostly Manor Thrill Center in Sandusky, Ohio, added the Haunted Mine Ride in an XD 4D motion theater, one of five haunted houses within the Lake EERIE Fear Fest. It uses VR technology to transport guests to what’s described as Ohio’s fastest VR roller coaster.

Interactivity is another emerging trend that’s taken Halloween by storm this year. Terror Behind the Walls—which is set in a defunct prison, Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia—added the interactive Hex Challenge, which scattered six secret rooms throughout the complex, each one challenging the person to step deeper into the scary story and try to escape the prison.

PHOTOS: Inside Some Creepy VR and Projection Mapped Haunted Houses

Derailed Haunted House in Ramer, Tenn., is adding the Gantom Torch – a new technology that allows users to control the colors, flickers and strobe lighting they experience, while Shocktoberfest in Sinking Spring, Pa., celebrates its 25th anniversary with the addition of an eighth experience, Ground Assault: Zombie Laser Tag.

Indy Scream Park, the largest haunted house in Indiana, has two interactive experiences: Pandemic, which shows what happens when government science experiments in a lab go wrong, and the retooled Zombieland: Apocalypse, an outdoor haunt where visitors crawl through abandoned school buses and try to escape zombies). Patrons 18 or older can wear glow-in-the-dark necklaces, giving actors permission to grab them or quarantine them.

Finally, ExFEARience at Eastwood Field in Niles, Ohio, lets guests turn the table and do the scaring themselves. For those who would prefer haunting to being spooked, the new Scarecade allows guests to work with the attraction to scare their family and friends.

Our friends in Canada could head to Toronto landmark Casa Loma, a Gothic Revival-style house that’s been transformed with a Halloween-style projection mapping show, part of Legends of Horror, an immersive theatrical experience that takes guests through the Casa Loma estate, including the lower gardens and tunnels, some of which are not generally open to the public.

The digital projection is courtesy of Toronto’s Big Digital and Liberty Entertainment Group, which rents the former private home, which worked for two years on the concept. It involves 30 production crew members and more than 100 actors.

Those who prefer to keep their fright closer to home can use motion detectors from Control 4, thermal imaging cameras, drones, VR and an app that can turn any 2D image into a 3D zombie to shake neighbors and visitors to their offices to their cores.

Zombie selfies, cosplay costumes, strategically placed wireless speakers pumping creepy seasonal music, an app that looks like blood and guts, an LED-lit pumpkin with its own QR code, a flat-screen TV disguised as a mirror and fluorescent drinks are other ways to make sure technology plays a big role in your Halloween celebration.