SyFy shows, I love you so hard. Which is why I was thrilled to see the release of an official Farnsworth iPhone app tied to Warehouse 13, the freak-of-the-week/detective-style show about famous objects from history which grant supernatural abilities at a terrible cost. The app offers more than just throwaway novelty value, and is actually made by the same special effects wizards that create some of the show’s prop-based magic.
QMx Interactive has some experience at making tie-in apps for media properties that go beyond simple promotion. It’s the team that brought us the Super 8 app, which was so effective as standalone software that I wasn’t even aware it was a cross-promotional effort when I checked it out back in January.
Like Super 8, Farnsworth has a strong video component. That’s because the app takes its name and concept from the Farnsworth device from Warehouse 13, which fans of the show will know is the basic video communication device used by the agents who track down the supernatural objects I mentioned above. The Farnsworth communicators have a retro, steampunk vibe, and the design of the app captures that, as does the grainy, black and white video with a fisheye effect it records.
The app costs 99 cents, which may seem steep to some for a promotional app, but it makes more sense when you realize that QMx has taken things a bit further than most. The Farnsworth app is based on QMx’s own proprietary messaging system, which it plans to roll out in other future apps. That means that you’ll be able to send cross-app video and audio messages from Farnsworth video communicator to other apps that use the same protocol.
Even without cross-app functionality, you can still use the app to send and receive video messages using Wi-Fi, 3G or EDGE network connectivity, and also post video updates directly to Facebook, as well as send them via email. As a tool for non-real-time video and audio communication, Farnsworth communicator could fill a handy niche between something like Skype and your phone’s own voicemail.
Finally, fans are the key audience for this app, and there’s fan service content on board. It ships with two pre-recorded messages from actors in the series, the look, feel and control interface are all as faithful as you’d expect from actual sci-fi prop designers.
The Farnsworth Video Communicator might not develop a groundswell following beyond fans of the show, but QMx is showing that it isn’t interested in making the same old boring tie-ins that often aren’t even worth the time you take to download them.