Halloween is right around the corner, and given the ongoing fear of job losses and the outright extinction of humanity, what could be more frightening these days than Artificial Intelligence (AI)?
Of course, it would be awfully difficult to dress up as AI itself (although a nicely designed robot might do the trick), but there are many ways in which intelligent technologies can add more spook to the spookiest time of the year.
AI is most useful when it augments human activity, and when it comes to generating ideas to put the fright in Fright Night, it’s hard to beat a technology that can draw on the sum total of human experience.
This year, AI is putting its mark on costumes, decorations, and haunted activities of all kinds to make sure we all have a fun but safe holiday.
AI Becomes Hauntingly Real
In Farmingville, New York, for example, the third iteration of Dark Night Halloween World has been upgraded with AI-generated animatronics and other experiences. Considered one of the top Halloween-themed events in the U.S., Dark Night features creepy ambiance, pop-up frights, and other ghostly attractions. This year, the owners have brought in AI to help with both the design and management of the entire show.
Earlier this year, the event’s producers contracted AI development firm Sekonds & Cummings to coordinate the entire show under an AI protocol, right down to microchipping the staffers so they can feed data into an intelligent processing engine in real-time. This allows the event to be coordinated at a more intricate level than in previous generations, linking everything from the animatronics and special effects to crowd control and even security. As well, AI is helping to run marketing and advertising strategies to help ramp up enthusiasm for the show. Apparently, AI knows what scares you . . .
Scaring Up the Halloween Dollars
Halloween may be all in good fun for the public, but it is also big business. Spending on the holiday now rivals Christmas, so it should come as no surprise that AI is front and center when creating and selling all the trappings that put people in the mood to be scared.
Chatbots, for one, are becoming increasingly optimized for Halloween and other high-value selling periods, giving customers a fun and engaging way to sort through the increasing variety of holiday-themed goodies. One of the more popular is BooBot, available on Facebook and Google Play. It provides shopping assistance, sales, coupon search, and can even track markets for last-minute price drops.
Streaming services, messaging apps, and other content providers are also turning to chatbots to guide users through their available options. Crypt-TV on the Facebook Messenger app directs users to spooky videos and short films, while ScaryBot allows members to share content and deepen their engagement with social media. Skype has even released a Halloween game bot called Escape from Ghost Treasure Mansion that features creepy puzzles and a Ouija board to solve mysteries and win prizes.
Meanwhile, generative AI, which is already creating written and spoken content for millions of users, is making its way to more visual applications in the beauty and fashion industries – and this has naturally led to Halloween make-up and costuming.
Perfect Corp., which has combined AI and augmented reality to give users a preview of what they could look like with new hair, cosmetics, and clothing, recently added a Halloween-themed function designed to optimize users’ spooky preparations.
The suite includes an AI avatar, multiple fashion modules, a text-to-image generator, and a wide range of selfie art options. The idea is to let users see what they could look like with real-world make-up and costumes, as well as recreate their online images along seasonal themes. It also helps to create decorative items, stickers, and other products that align with individual tastes.
AI is also helping to push Halloween beyond its traditional western roots to find entirely new audiences in other cultures. In India, for example, artist Prateek Arora has employed the AI platform MidJourney to combine Halloween-inspired images with those of classic Bollywood horror films. The result is a series of uniquely disquieting art pieces designed to send chills up and down the spine.
The creations include disturbing family portraits, demons, and other supernatural entities, as well as altered bodies and sci-fi-inspired aliens and cyborgs.
And despite the controversy surrounding AI’s use in the arts, the art is garnering critical attention for its originality and emotional impact. Already, social media has brought the images to the attention of millions of users, with buzz that they, or future works, could make their way onto film before long.
Halloween is all about suspending reality for a moment to enter an alternate world where normal rules don’t apply. AI is tailor-made for this experience, given its ability to adjust its behavior when exposed to changing environments. Sometimes, this can be scary, but it often leads to more satisfying and sometimes unexpected results.
After all, the art of a good scare is surprise — and AI is nothing if not surprising.