DMA TECH WATCH: SXSW Preview, VR Investment, & J.J. Abrams’ New Project

By Phill Powell

Welcome to DMA Tech Watch, where we review the biggest news events and tech trends now on the radar. Here’s what we’re watching as of March 7, 2016:

DMA INVADES TEXAS! (AT SXSW)

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DMA Regional Director Paul Lopez (rt.) confers with the DMA team at SXSW.

It’s all happening in tech-centric Austin, Texas, at the South By Southwest (SXSW) Festival. DMA is at the SXSWedu Playground this week, showcasing cool tech in action.

“We’re screen printing, demoing VR with Oculus Rift, and 3D printing keychains that people 3D model right at our booth!” says DMA Assistant Director of Curriculum Development Marcus Duvoisin, who’s part of DMA’s Texas team this week.

Come see us at the show. Our booth (Number 10) is located in Ballroom EFG of the Austin Convention Center, and it’s hard to miss. Booth hours each day are from 12 p.m. – 5 p.m. (Central Time). Last year’s show was a blast, and we’re expecting to have a great time this year, too. Look for further reports from SXSW this week!

THE iPHONE STANDOFF (THE LATEST)

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Now Apple has a new security nightmare to deal with: ransomware.

Neither side is giving an inch between Apple Inc. and the U.S. Department of Justice. For weeks, both parties have been locked in a stalemate that seems to have no foreseeable end in sight. A lengthy list of tech giants (e.g., Microsoft, Amazon, Facebook, Google, Pinterest, Yahoo and Twitter) have aligned with Apple in shows of industry support.

But the standoff with the DOJ is only one of Apple’s current headaches. According to CNN Money reports, some Apple computers have fallen victim to “ransomware,” as detected by Palo Alto Networks three days ago, who say they found ransomware on OS X.

Ransomware is pretty much just like it sounds; it takes over a computer and locks out that computer’s owner. The program found recently, called keRanger, extorts computer owners to cough up a ransom of one Bitcoin (around $400) if they want to regain access to their computer and files.

VR INVESTORS LIKE WHAT THEY SEE

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Dude, be careful! You’ve wandered into the Rain Forest!

Last week we told you about Microsoft entering the VR market, and apparently, so is everybody else.

We’re still only in the first fiscal quarter of the year, and yet the big story in Silicon Valley and other tech centers remains virtual reality. The first two months of 2016 produced a staggering $1.1 billion in VR investment. Could we be looking at a $6 billion VR year?

(Aren’t you curious to explore virtual reality this summer? Everybody else will be!)

AMAZON STUDIOS TO PLAY BALL WITH THEATER CHAINS

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Amazon’s latest movie-releasing strategy may be crazy like a fox.

It’s no secret that streaming video services like Netflix are now making lots of their own movies, which they can and do release directly to their subscribers. Now they’re even starting to release some of these productions in theaters.

But that gets into complex territory, because that’s always been the domain of theater chains, which have insisted for decades that there should be a 90-day window between the time a movie opens and it becomes available for rental or purchase (or, more often these days, streaming).

And while some streaming services are ignoring the 90-day window, Amazon Studios has indicated that it will follow it, at least on those productions it wants to see booked into premium theater chains. Amazon will wait the 90-day period before offering some of these A-list films via its Amazon Prime streaming service.

ABRAMS JOINS FORCE-S WITH GOOGLE

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J.J. Abrams has space on the brain…and he’s now sharing it with Google.

Last week we told you about a reality show that profiles pro video gamers. This week, there’s a new program to announce, and this one’s being headed up by Star Wars: The Force Awakens director J.J. Abrams. His Bad Robot production company is partnering with Google on the new reality show called Moon Shot.

And what a challenge the 16 profiled teams have! Before January 2018, the teams are racing to see which can send a spacecraft to the Moon, have a lunar rover travel at least 500 meters from the landing site and then send back high-def images to Earth. There’s $30 million waiting for the team that can do it first, but the clock’s ticking. See how it can pay off to learn rocket science!

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Join us this summer at DMA and “create the next.”