7 Tips and Tricks for a High-Tech Halloween

Applications, websites and gadgets to help you scare up some fun.

Oct. 28, 2010— -- There's no shame in doing the old fashioned thing for Halloween.

Ghost costumes cut from white sheets, jack-o-lanterns carved from farm-fresh pumpkins and bobbing for apples will likely never go out of style.

But if you want to throw a high-tech twist into the hijinks-filled holiday, a ghoulish gamut of iPad and iPhone applications, websites and gadgets are ready to help you and your family scare up some fun.

From ways to keep track of your favorite trick or treaters to mess-less pumpkin carving and more, here are a few tips for a high-tech Halloween.

1.Costume Confusion

Still scratching your head over this year's Halloween costume? A handful of iPhone applications want to help you get creative.

The Halloween Costume Generator, by Synthetic Bits LLC, launched last year but is back this year -- and with an even better price. For 99 cents (down from $1.99) the application helps you choose a costume from more than 200 possibilities.

Just enter your gender, the kind of party you plan to attend and your mood, and the app generates a list of suggestions, along with a set of do-it-yourself directions.

The ideas run from pop culture icons, such as American Idols and Golden Girls, to more typical Halloween fare, like zombie brides and mimes.

If you're choosing a costume for your child, check out the Pottery Barn Kids Costume Finder. The app lets you upload a picture of child and then get a sneak peak of how your kid will look in any of their costumes. Though the application is free, the costumes are not.

After Halloween, Liz Gumbinner, publisher and editor-in-chief of Cool Mom Tech and Cool Mom Picks, suggested using technology again to give your kids' costumes new life.

"Your one-year-old will be into Elmo this year and by next year, they'll be on to Dora the Explorer," she said.

But instead of letting costumes collect dust in the closet, she suggested trading with other parents on sites like thredup.com and swapmamas.com.

Both sites let parents give away clothes and other items their kids have outgrown and get items they like for their own families.

Swap sites are becoming big draws for parents, Gumbinner said, and Halloween is a great time to check them out.

2. Get Zombified

If you don't want to stuff yourself into costume but still want to share in the Halloween fun, several apps and websites can help you play virtual dress-up.

Choose a picture of yourself, and within seconds of uploading it, Haunted Face will give you ghostly makeover. The 99-cent application comes with sound effects and lets you share your haunted face with friends on Facebook and Twitter.

If you can handle it, Zombie Me (which comes in $1.99 and 99-cent versions) uses the same concept to turn you and friends into bloody, eye-bulging zombies.

Gambinner said apps like these might not be best for kids under 12, "But for 14-year-olds into out-grossing each other, I think it's fantastic."

3. Pumpkin Carving

Pumpkin carving can be a lot of fun. But, it can also create a giant mess.

If your toddler, or even teen, wants to get into the Halloween spirit but you don't want to have to deal with the aftermath, check out Ze Frank's Pumpkin Me website.

"You can literally use tools and carve your own pumpkin online," said Ken Denmead, editor of Wired.com's GeekDad blog.

The flash-based website lets you carve a virtual pumpkin with your computer's mouse, revealing a flickering candle inside every time a chunk of the pumpkin falls away. When you're done, you can share the final product on Facebook, Twitter or via e-mail.

You also can upload a picture of yourself or a friend and carve the pumpkin in that image.

If you want to give your kids a way to carve pumpkins on the go, pumpkin carving is all the rage at the Apple app store.

The 99-cent Parents Carve a Pumpkin application for iPads and iPhones from Parents magazine is a great option of younger kids, Gumbinner said. The easy-to-use application lets kids drag and drop shapes to carve a virtual pumpkin.

For older kids, she suggested the 99-cent application Carve It! Pumpkin Carving, which lets kids carve pumpkins freehand with the tips of their fingers.

4. Enjoy Sugar-Free Halloween Treats

If you want to give your kids a no-sugar way to enjoy Halloween treats, you could download the holiday version of the popular Cupcakes app. For 99 cents, the iPad and iPhone application lets kids pretend to bake, decorate and eat colorful cakes.

"My kids go crazy over it," said Gumbinner, adding that the holiday version is perfect for Halloween, but it will carry you into holidays later in the season.

Cookie Doodle, another popular virtual cooking app for kids, also gave itself a Halloween makeover. The latest 99-cent version includes all the basic cookie baking and decorating tools, but also features cookie cutters shaped as ghosts, witches, bats and other seasonal favorites.

5. Angry Birds Halloween

It was already bestseller in Apple's app store, but the Halloween version of the mega-hit game Angry Birds is making headlines of its own.

Appmaker Rovio Mobile announced Wednesday that the "ghastly special edition" of its popular game had been downloaded one million times.

Just for Halloween, Rovio said the game features "45 daunting levels of pig and pumpkin-smashing fun."

6. Devilish Decor

If you like to get your own home nice and haunted for Halloween trick or treaters, technology can help you up the fear factor.

Hallowindow sells Halloween-themed animations that you can project on to your window or display on your television.

GeekDad's Denmead said he's been using them for a few years to spook visitors with giant eyeballs or scary shadows lurking in his home's window.

"They're fun, spooky animations but they're designed for rear projection on windows," he said.

It might be too late to have DVDs with the animations shipped to you, but you can download images from the website for $4 to $12.

If you want to enhance your devilish decor with sound effects, Denmead suggested placing wireless speakers outside and piping in Halloween noises.

7. Track Your Trick or Treaters

If you want to keep tabs on your favorite trick or treaters but they don't want you cramping their style, a range of location-based applications and gadgets might help you out.

No amount of technology will replace parental or adult supervision when it comes to young children. But the TrickorTracker application for Android phones could help you follow older kids from your phone.

The app (which is free for Halloween but will cost $9.99 after the holiday) lets parents type in a security code to get a text message with their child's location. It also lets kids easily find out where they are or send their location to a parent if they get lost.

The MobileMe application for the iPhone and Android is another location-based application. A family pack for MobileMe costs $149 and lets users locate any phone connected to the account from another phone or computer.

Google Latitude offers a free alternative. Once it's downloaded to a phone, other "friends" can spot your location on a smartphone or computer map.