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How Verizon gets developers thinking about its road map

A recent visit to Verizon's app innovation center in San Francisco yielded some direction on where it thinks apps are headed.

Verizon's app innovation center features some devices and capabilities they are testing, including 3D. Roger Cheng/CNET

Verizon's app innovation center in San Francisco isn't just a place to drum up developer interest for the carrier; it's where you go to see what the company has cooking in terms of future capabilities and features.

I had a chance to tour the offices recently, checking out the company's RF-testing room, three labs (named after three of the four Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles), and gallery of advanced devices. The innovation center is partly there to help developers with their apps, and partly there for networking events to connect developers with each other and with Verizon.

Most interesting are some of the things Verizon is kicking around. None of it is all too groundbreaking, but it gives an indication of where the carrier may go down the line with phone capabilities. That's important for a developer looking to take advantage of the latest and greatest from devices.

Verizon, for instance, had a 3D test device on display. While 3D has been out for a while, including the HTC Evo 3D from Sprint Nextel and the LG Thrill from AT&T, it hasn't exactly been a hot seller. In fact, a lot of critics say 3D is just a distracting feature that adds little to the smartphone experience.

I've had my own mixed experiences with 3D (it's a nice novelty that fades fast), so it's surprising that Verizon was taking a crack at it.

Larry Rau, director of network technology for Verizon, took me through a few other areas that he said he was pointing developers to work toward.

Augmented reality. The feature blends the physical and virtual world and carries more of a wow factor than 3D. Rau said Verizon has done demos with Qualcomm. I've previously written about how there's a growing opportunityin this area.

Tegra 3. Verizon phones don't yet pack an Nvidia Tegra 3 chip, but that will likely change. On display was a test device running on a Tegra 3 quad-core processor.

Multiple microphones. Also not available yet are phones with multiple microphones. But Rau said he is encouraging developers to think about how they can use that capability in different ways. He said that while the added features bring higher costs, the content will often justify the expense.

Juggling sensors. Rau also said he is pushing developers to think about how to incorporate the different sensors on a phone, including a blend of the accelerometer, magnet sensor, and light sensor.

Given the planned hardware that could come to phones in the coming months, I'm fairly excited about what kinds of apps will pop up.