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How to program your smart hub to scare the pants off of you

Halloween is just around the corner. Smart devices are getting more compatible than ever now that the Matter standard is rolling out, and there are new releases for everything from the latest Nest video doorbell to the new Echo Dot 5th-gen smart speaker. That makes it a great time to celebrate the season with a few spooky additions to your home.

Your smart hubs now have more options than ever, and we’ve got plenty of ideas to help you get started with your scares — whether you want some mild spooks for the kids or plan to make your friends furiously terrified. Let’s get started!

Set your porch up for a maximum scare

Georgina Campbell stands on a front porch at night in Barbarian.
20th Century Studios, 2022

With the right devices like smart lights, smart plugs, and video doorbells, you can turn your porch into a fright show for whoever may stop by. There’s so much you can do, we have a full guide on setting up your porch for Halloween, but here are a few highlights:

  • Set your doorbell to a spooky sound. Google in particular launches a Halloween-themed assortment of noises for its Nest chimes every year, including things like witch cackles and woof howls.
  • Set your porch lights to turn a spooky color. Extra points if you set your smart lights up with a motion sensor, like those on security cams or video doorbells, to turn spooky colors when someone approaches or to sync with Halloween tunes that are playing on a smart speaker.
  • You can use two-audio communication, like that found on video doorbells and security cams, to simulate a spooky greeting or really get into roleplaying.
  • Hide portable Bluetooth speakers in the bushes. You can play noises or scary music on demand from wherever you choose, and the batteries last for hours without needing a recharge. You could even get a battery mount for something like an Echo Dot and put it inside a jack-o’lantern so you can speak out of it for a terrifying effect.
  • Smart plugs and other devices allow you to add smoke machines, speakers, and other devices that you can control with a simple command.

Find a spooky movie to stream

The Night House movie scene.

Voice assistants are usually great at keeping tabs on what movies are currently streaming, so if you want something scary to watch (alone or with friends), don’t hesitate to ask. For example, if you ask Alexa, “What scary movies are streaming?” she will provide a list of the latest options from not only Amazon but a variety of services — everything from the new Hocus Pocus to the Dahmer series on Netflix. Or, if you have an HBO Max subscription, you could use a smart display to visit the House of Halloween page: Pick a tarot card, and HBO will recommend its scariest offerings based on what you choose!

Set a Halloween routine

Echo dot in the dark.
via Reddit/u/Razor512

Your porch isn’t the only place for a Halloween scare. To get some jumps from your friends and loved ones, set a routine on your smart hub so you can give a command like, “Alexa, get scary,” (or Google’s, “Hey Google, haunt my house,” which is a more automated option), and your whole house will get in on the action.

The only limit is what you want your compatible smart devices to do: Indoor smart lights can turn spooky red, and smart speakers can be set to play Halloween sounds or creepy tunes (you can look these up on things like Alexa Skills). If you have smart blinds, you can raise them to suddenly open or close, while smart plugs can turn on and off things like lamps or small appliances. You could even send a Roomba skittering across the floor or make pet appliances shoot out treats! Look at how to create Routines for more information.

Play a Halloween game

Google Nest Hub 2nd Gen on table.
John Velasco / Digital Trends

Smart hubs always have a few interactive games to play, and some of them are much more spine-tingling than others, making them a perfect fit for the season. Alexa has options like Haunted Adventure, while Google Assistant supports games such as the RPG Castle Blackhorn. Just tell the voice assistant to start playing games like these by name. Add in a smart display option like an Echo Show or Nest Hub, and your game options will expand thanks to the touchscreen!

Or hear a sinister story instead

Amazon Echo 4th Gen smart speaker on a table.

If a game isn’t quite for you, smart hubs with voice assistants have a stockpile of stories to tell. A variety of voice commands work with this feature, but we’ve found that telling Alexa or Google something like, “Tell me a scary story,” or “Play a spooky story,” will yield great results. You may want to experiment a bit beforehand to find out how kid-friendly the story selections are, but generally, voice assistants are careful to keep things family-friendly unless very, very specifically ordered otherwise.

Use a portable projector for wicked results

The Anker NEBULA Capsule.

Did you know that there are portable, battery-powered projectors you can connect to your phone that use screen mirroring to stream images, video clips, movies, and more? Some of the best examples include the AAXA P8, the Anker Nebula Capsule, and the ViewSonic M2. Set these up with the right connections and a bit of camouflage, and you have the ability to pop up a sudden ghostly image in all sorts of places, from the side of your house to the end of a dark hallway. Most come with Bluetooth speakers that can add sudden audio, too.

You can use these ideas to create jumpscares or to beam an old scary movie on your exterior siding or doorway — well, you probably already have some imaginative ideas. Of course, a portable projector is an expensive pick, but you can always use it off-season to watch movies in the backyard with kids or for other fun tricks.

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