DMA TECH WATCH: Hoverboards are Here! (Bring Your Checkbook!)

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 14, 2016:

YOUR MAGIC CARPET HAS ARRIVED


No CGI needed: Finally, a hoverboard that works. And it’s only 15 grand!

Next month in Monaco, the ArcaBoard really goes public. This is the first truly convincing hoverboard to be demonstrated and created for mass production. (Lexus pretended to create one last March, but it could only hover over surfaces that contained an embedded system of magnets.)

The ArcaBoard is different, a bit larger than the “prototype” Lexus demonstrated. Somewhere in size between a skateboard and a surfboard, the ArcaBoard’s shape sort of resembles a domino. Its hovering is enabled by the downward air blast of 36 onboard electric ducted fans, as run by a 270hp electric motor.

Those many fans can produce an upward thrust of 430 lbs. and the ArcaBoard features built-in stabilization. At 92 dB, its makers say the ArcBoard is about as loud as an indoor power generator. The above clip shows the ArcBoard traveling at a peak speed of about 8 mph.

On April 14th, ARCA Space Corporation starts delivering the ArcaBoard, which sells for (gulp!) $14,900. And should you want the ArcaDock (which cuts charging time from 6 hours to 35 minutes), you’ll need to add another $4,500.

APPLE FEUDS WITH JUSTICE DEPT., PREPARES PRODUCT LAUNCH

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The DOJ states no company is above the law. Apple warns a “back door” could open a Pandora’s Box.

While nothing has fundamentally changed in the great encryption standoff between Apple and the U.S. Department of Justice, there is more back and forth and some of that crosstalk is becoming shrill and loud.

On Monday, Apple counsel Ted Boutros told CNBC that the DOJ “got a little carried away” in its most recent court filing, which accuses Apple of intentionally engineering products that cannot be searched by government entities, even when Apple is presented with proper search warrants. The filing hints that if Apple doesn’t comply, the DOJ could legally request the entire source code for iOS.

President Obama, speaking Friday at the SXSW festival in Austin, Texas, seemed to take a middle stand, personally professing to be on the “civil liberties side” of the issue, but admitting that there are times when personal liberties need to take a back seat to public safety. “We’re going to have to make some decisions about how we balance these risks,” he told the festival crowd.

But encryption is only part of Apple’s business. Next week, it gets back to its main function – building and selling cool tech products. On March 21, Apple will hold an unveiling of new products. Topping that list will be a 4-inch iPhone (rumored to be called the iPhone SE), which should sell for around $450.

Industry analysts also expect Apple to announce a new 9.7-inch iPad, to succeed 2014’s iPad Air 2. As with previous iPads, this one should start at around $500 for the standard model with 16 GB.

(How’d you like to learn to make apps for iPhone and iPad? DMA can show you how…this summer.)

GOOGLE…ER, ALPHABET RANKED NO. 1 EMPLOYER

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With amazing benefits and an eye-popping campus, why wouldn’t you want to work for Alphabet?

Fortune‘s list of the 100 best companies to work for in the U.S. came out last week. To almost nobody’s surprise, the top-ranking company was Google – which is now known as Alphabet. The reason nobody was shocked is because this is the seventh time that Alphabet (Google) has been selected as the best of the best employers.

In addition to feeling pride about Alphabet’s place in the corporate world – as either the biggest or second-biggest company on the globe – employees love that feeling of knowing they’re working on tech’s cutting edge.

But the benefits aren’t bad, either. While lots of companies now provide some type of snacks for employees, Alphabet serves them three organic meals, as well as all the snacks they want. Fortunately, Alphabet helps employees work off those meals with fitness classes, spa treatments and other health options. Then the perks start getting ridiculous: free haircuts and fluff-and-fold laundry service. Need your bike repaired? Covered, on site. What about an oil change for your car? No problem.

Of course, Alphabet already had us with two simple words: “nap pods.”

MICROSOFT’S NEW AI TOOL: MINECRAFT

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There’s no limit to what you can do with Minecraft. That makes it great for AI researchers.

Everything is interconnected these days, and here’s more proof. Microsoft is using Minecraft to help artificial intelligence researchers create better and richer AI. It’s all part of a new platform for developing software, called Project AIX.

The AIX platform, developed by Microsoft researchers, was presented to the public on Monday. The goal behind Project AIX is to give computer scientists an arena where they can pioneer future AI breakthroughs.

Turns out that Minecraft is the perfect AI testing ground because the game/builder is virtually limitless. Microsoft has provided the platform to a small number of researchers but will make it available this summer through an open-source license.

(Discover how to mod Minecraft this summer.)

ACTIVISION: EVERYBODY’S GETTING INTO SHOW BUSINESS

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Activision’s already captured game consoles everywhere. Now they’re coming for your TV…

You can expect a great ramping-up over at Activision, which announced Friday that it will be launching an in-house movie and TV studio. Activision’s goal is to make live-action shows from its popular game franchises, such as the “Call of Duty” line of games.

Then taking it one step further, Activision will be trying to capitalize even more on those beloved video game characters, by plunking them into different shows and settings. The first project is rumored to be an animated television series titled Skylanders Academy, from Activision’s hot “Skylanders” franchise.

Also on the Activision agenda: Setting up a new division specially dedicated to showcasing e-sports events.

This weekend will bring more company news as the BlizzCon fan festival takes place at the Anaheim (California) Convention Center this Friday and Saturday.

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