VANCOUVER, Wash. – It is a dark and stormy night. Creeping through a murky room, a victim shrieks in terror before falling through a broken floor.
This might sound like the plot of a low-budget movie, but it actually is cutting-edge research under way at Washington State University Vancouver—minus the broken floor. Students in the digital technology and culture program are working on a simulated haunted house, dubbed “Media Scare,” that puts people into environments without them actually being there.
With four walls, video projectors, a sound system, robotic lights and infrared cameras, the Move Lab immerses visitors in a new location, perhaps scary or exotic and certainly distant, while they really are still on campus, said senior Samantha Goelze.
The Move Lab and its related technology also can be used for game development, visual story telling and therapy for people with disabilities. 

“Media Scare is our attempt to translate something that is physical and tangible, like a haunted house, into something that is digital and virtual,” Goelze said. “But it still maintains those aesthetic qualities of a haunted house and still allows people to, say, get scared.” 
Cameras use infrared signals to track a small device carried by the subject. The signals are transmitted to a computer that triggers sounds, lights and other effects to react when the person steps in a certain area or moves a certain way. That movement around the room is what Goelze said is important.

“We’re really looking at getting people moving so, instead of just arm movements to make actions happen, they actually have to walk. They have to use their full body, go up, down, left, right,” she said.
The technical setup of the room means that people have to come to campus to experience Media Scare, but Goelze said she hopes that will change eventually.
“We really want to take it mobile and make it more accessible, … so we can bring the technology to people instead of people having to come to us,” she said.
For more about the Creative Media & Digital Culture program, click here.