Nightmare Machine brings high tech immersion to haunted houses

SEATTLE - The days of the old fashioned Halloween haunted house may soon be replaced by something called "The Nightmare Machine" unveiled Thursday in Seattle.

A high-tech local start-up is turning serious gadgets into virtual reality fun with first-of-its-kind advanced technology that you can try this October.

"It's the holy grail of virtual reality," said VRcade Executive Director Jamie Kelly.

The company has developed advanced headset technology with numerous applications for training, education, medical, exhibits, etc.

"It was not a far step to start sticking zombies in there and just the visceral reaction and love of being invaded by zombies was - it was clear that a haunted house had to be created," said Kelly.

Every day this October, The Nightmare Machine will be the essence of a virtual haunted house using wireless 3D immersion with SurroundSound headphones at the Experience Music Project. Tickets went on sale Thursday via their Kickstarter campaign under the name "The Nightmare Machine."

A demonstration room Thursday featured eight infrared cameras in an otherwise barren room that allows up to four users at a time. "We can have ghosts appearing and disappearing," says VRcade co-founder Mark Haverstock. "We can mess with physics any way we want to. We can have all of your friends in the room at the same time and then suddenly turn into a zombie and attack you."

Four volunteers tried the experience at the unveiling. Each gyrated and grunted in the barren room while onlookers chuckled with glee, knowing full well the consuming experience going on inside the head set.

The company says what makes the VRcade head set so different is that, for the first time, it allows the wearer to walk, move up and down, turn, look all different ways while fleeing zombies. But the zombies have the same technology so it's impossible to escape them. "The idea that you can freely move and interact," said Kelly. "And so if you move, you can't get away from it. Very, very exciting!"

The team at VRcade created the technology and the hardware. They're launching a global competition to produce unparalleled content for the October run. Money and prizes go to the winners. Similar virtual haunted houses are envisioned in other major cities in the future.

Visitors to the virtual haunted house this October at EMP will be able to pick from differing levels of fright.