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Every year around this time, pop culture fanatics and tech geeks alike gather in Austin, Texas, for the South By Southwest Festival (SXSW). While the music portion of the annual event kicks off today, the SXSW Interactive Festival -- described as an "incubator of cutting-edge technologies and digital creativity" -- began last Friday and wraps up later today. Throughout the tech conference's five-day run, participants were able to get a get a glimpse into the future of technology and hear from a wide variety of industry experts. While speakers in the past have included higher-ups from Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG), Twitter Inc (NYSE:TWTR), and Yahoo! Inc. (NASDAQ:YHOO), this year's main event was a virtual conversation with whistleblower Edward Snowden.
More importantly, perhaps, the SXSW Interactive Festival puts startups in contact with venture capitalists. In fact, an appearance by Twitter at SXSW in 2007 helped put the micro-blogging site on the map. Here's a quick look at a some of the findings at this year's festival.
- Health care apps and gadgets. Kinsa's smart thermometer (subscription required), for example, is intended to connect to an Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) iPhone, and allows the user to take and record their temperature, as well as keep track of other symptoms.
- Wearable technology. Who wants to wait for Google Glass, when Vergence Labs is taking orders on its line of smart glasses -- Epiphany Eyewear.
- Robots in the workplace. Technological advances have changed the face of the workplace, and amid these innovations, Autodesk, Inc. (NASDAQ:ADSK) CEO Carl Bass expressed his hope that, "With our creativity and imagination, we will find harmony with the robots."
- A Twitter-enabled vending machine. TWTR teamed up with MasterCard Incorporated (NYSE:MA) to create a vending machine that doled out "opportunities" to MA cardholders, as opposed to snacks.
- More women geeks. Specifically, five times as many female speakers were featured at this year's festival than there were last year.
- Watson. International Business Machines Corp.'s (NYSE:IBM) notoriously smart computer offered up food samplings to attendees based on its research of thousands of recipes and chemical compounds.
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March roared in like a bear, as the market moved solidly lower on Monday amid troubling developments between Russia and Ukraine. By week's end, however, this sell-off was a distant memory, as major market indexes were back in all-time-high territory. Amid this seesaw market action, there was strategizing in the options pits, merger developments, and updates on the world's wealthiest citizens. Here are some notable market developments you may have missed this past week:
- Schaeffer's Senior VP of Research Todd Salamone shares two reasons why the CBOE Volatility Index (VIX) remains elevated with the market at new highs.
- Our founder and CEO Bernie Schaeffer is keeping a close eye on the $30 level for the VelocityShares Daily Inverse VIX Short-Term ETN (XIV). The XIV currently looks poised to close out the week north of this level.
- The controversy surrounding the Google Glass eyeglass computer continued to grow, as a bar in San Francisco banned the device's use (despite the fact that it is not yet available to the public). This backlash hasn't stopped Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG) shares from continuing to move toward another new record high.
- In the wake of escalating tensions in Ukraine, Schaeffer's contributor Adam Warner surveys the current landscape for fear and greed.
- Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) options traders took advantage of a dip in volatility to buy short-term calls and puts at a relative bargain.
- Forbes released its list of the world's billionaires, and the fairer sex had a greater representation than ever. Women associated with Mars, Inc., Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. (NYSE:WMT), and AAPL took prominent spots in the top 100.
- Time Warner Cable Inc (NYSE:TWC) speculators have stepped up their trading activity as they await a ruling on whether the company will be cleared to merge with Comcast Corporation (NASDAQ:CMCSA). Put options have been notably active, with speculators both buying and selling to open these contracts.
- Speaking of mergers, Safeway Inc. (NYSE:SWY) may be acquired by Albertson's parent Cerberus Capital Management … unless The Kroger Co. (NYSE:KR) proves itself a more worthy suitor.
- Options traders have flocked to J.C. Penney Company, Inc. (NYSE:JCP) options pits, as the beleaguered retailer struggles to bounce back.