Looking in on Verizon's App Innovation Center (photos)
CNET swung by Verizon's new App Innovation Center on its opening day to see what cutting edge projects the spacious downtown San Francisco office has in store.
Verizon's new Application Innovation Center, opened today in a downtown San Francisco office building, has a gorgeous view of the Bay Bridge. Perhaps Verizon hopes that the stunning scene will inspire app developers to create new products and services for use on Verizon's smartphones, tablets, and networks.
As soon as you step into the suite, you know it's Verizon's. This glowing red fixture in Verizon's signature color is only one example of the carrier's mark on an otherwise ordinary office suite. Various sizes of Samsung flat-panel displays dot the walls.
After Verizon CTO David Small addressed the modest gathering, Big Red's CEO, Dan Mead, officially opened the Application Innovation Center for business. Mead emphasized the relationship between the San Francisco Application center and its sister site, the LTE Innovation Center for devices, based in Waltham, Mass.
LTE is going to make things we didn't think possible within our reach," Mead said.
What good would an innovation center launch be without some fun demos to show off? The VGo, an LTE-enabled robotic telepresence unit, is operated by Gulay Kurt (pictured on the robot's screen) out of the LTE Innovation Center. Kurt controls the bot's mobility with controls on her end, as well as the camera angle and lights. The VGo unit can take photos and video. It could be used as a classroom stand-in for a home-bound student, or as an extra pair of eyes to monitor a building's security, to name two scenarios.
I slide on a pair of 3D glasses for this demo of a development platform, created by BSquare, that can turn 2D games into 3D games on the fly. Here, I'm using a prototype handset with a 1Ghz Qualcomm dual-core processor to see "Desert Winds" on a flat-panel display. The platform uses 3D APIs and the OpenGLS gaming standard to nudge conventional games into 3D territory.
Since this was a demo, there was no actual game play, but I did tap the screen to toggle between 2D and 3D. I'll admit, the graphics in some action sequences did look pretty cool.
Known only as the App Wall, this first implementation of a 9-panel LCD touch-screen app store showcases apps from Verizon's VCast catalog. Envisioned for retail stores, for instance, you tap your way through categories and apps to surface a nugget of information about the app, and a QR code for downloading it on the spot. Playing with the wall is fun. Tap and drag the screen and the top layers of the concentric circles move with you, adding in some 3D perspective--up to a point.
This digital jukebox, created by TouchTunes, is exactly what you'd want to find in your neighborhood, retro-fitted dive bar. Another product to come out of the LTE Innovation Center, offers up a comprehensive and thoroughly modern digital interface for finding tunes. It's sleek and graphically rich like an oversize app. Interestingly, it also has a camera lens at the top, perhaps for Karaoke, or as an impromptu photo box?
The LTE-enabled TouchTunes jukebox has some cached music and can also fetch a new song in three or four seconds over the network, Verizon's Michael Flynn told CNET. Beyond selling plays of your recommendations, it also offers advertizing opportunities on its digital face.
Launch a game on a smartphone to play merrily away but come across a pre-defined "target" of any kind--a landmark, some Skittles, or even a ticket to a ball game--to bring the game into a new dimension.
This basketball demo game uses Qualcomm's augmented reality toolkit to create a game that comes to life when the camera "sees" (or senses that it's near) the paper ticket. You can peer through the static gaming elements to see the real-world table top and another sheet of paper on the smartphone screen.
It's not all fun and games at Verizon's new developer hangout. After today's event, showrooms will become office spaces, and this austere little closet will become a hive of activity for developers testing various slices of Verizon's LTE network in a controlled environment.
Developers will be able to work with Verizon engineers to test their apps and services on multiple instances of Verizon's real-time network, by accessing the LTE core Verizon has located in its Waltham, Mass., innovation center. The heavy door on the left effectively blocks out local interference from Verizon's network.
The RF room, as it's called, is in essence a bunker. The door is made of 3/4-inch plywood with galvanized steel on both sides, and the doorjamb is sealed with brass. The heavy arm opens and closes the thick metal slugs that keep the door in place--and keep Verizon's San Francisco network from creeping into results. It isn't exactly air tight, but Big Red's team says it will do the job.