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6 CES Technologies Ahead of Their Time

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Every year since 1967, the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) has been an ideal place for companies to present their groundbreaking audio, video, computer, and video game products. Not every gadget on display in Las Vegas will succeed, but sometimes they flop because they're simply too far ahead of their time. Here are six technologies displayed at CES that, for one reason or another, weren't a hit then, but have since become a part of our daily lives.

1. Sony Data Discman (1991 Summer CES)

A hot topic among book lovers today is the potential demise of the printed page now that e-readers have become so popular. But people were having the same conversation in 1991, when Sony debuted the first e-reader, the Data Discman, at a VIP-only party at the Four Seasons Hotel during Summer CES in Chicago.

The Data Discman was about the size of a drugstore paperback, weighed just under 2lbs, featured a monochrome LCD screen, and a full QWERTY keyboard. Users could search books - mainly dictionaries, encyclopedias, travel guides, and other reference materials - loaded onto 3.5” CDs that held up to 80,000 pages of text or 32,000 pictures. And when you were done reading, you could plug in your headphones and listen to a music CD, too.

Sony released several different versions of the Data Discman with varying features, like a flip-top screen. However, at $450 for the base model, it didn't catch on in America or Europe. (It was a hit in Japan.)

2. AT&T VideoPhone 2500 (1993 Winter CES)

While the concept of a videophone is almost as old as the telephone itself, and a handful of high-priced models aimed at businesses have been available since the late-1960s, AT&T’s VideoPhone 2500 was the first model marketed to the home consumer.

Although available in 1992, AT&T used the 1993 Winter CES to kickstart a large-scale campaign to promote the phone and its full-color, 3.3” LCD screen that could show video conversations over regular telephone lines.

Of course for the video to work, both callers had to have their own VideoPhone. And at $1,599 each, it was not a small investment. Even a price drop to $999 just 13 months after its release didn't help sales. But perhaps the main reason the VideoPhone didn't take off was that consumers simply didn't want to see each other every time they picked up the phone. Naturally AT&T tried to convince them otherwise with some clever marketing ideas. For example, VideoPhones were placed inside the lobbies of 150 Hilton Hotels for use by traveling salespeople. The salesperson's family could visit a local AT&T store to talk to their road warrior on the VideoPhone, or even rent a model for a few days to try it at home. However, these efforts couldn’t sway public opinion, and the VideoPhone was discontinued in 1995.

Today, of course, we carry smartphones in our pockets that feature Skype, Google Hangouts, Apple Facetime, and plenty of other apps that let us talk face-to-face using full-motion video as fast as our 3 or 4G cellular networks can handle. However, even now, video calls aren’t the norm. Maybe the videophone is a solution looking for a problem.

3. Sega Activator (1993 Winter CES)

Considered one of the worst video game controllers ever made, the Sega Activator, which debuted at CES in 1993, was an early, but severely flawed attempt at motion-based gameplay for the Sega Genesis.

The Activator was a flat, octagonal frame that sat on the floor in front of the TV. Each section of the frame emitted an infrared beam that corresponded with a button on the standard Genesis controller. Players stood inside the frame and, waving their hands and feet, broke the path of the beam that corresponded with the button they wanted to push, making their video game avatar move accordingly. In theory, anyway.

The controls were less than intuitive, and the beams weren't very responsive, so the player usually flailed around like one of those dancing windsock men in front of a local car dealership, with few intended responses from the on-screen character.

The Activator's poor functionality, coupled with the fact that it cost $150 – nearly as much as the Genesis itself - meant that motion-controlled video games would have to wait until 2006 when Nintendo released its wildly successful Wii console.

Here's the training video that came with the controller:

4. AT&T Edge 16 (1993 Winter CES)

When Xbox Live debuted in 2002, it revolutionized video games. With Xbox Live and the similar PlayStation Network, gamers can not only play head-to-head against each other, they can talk via headset microphones, and download exclusive game content like new characters or in-game equipment. Did you know Sega was offering the same thing back during the Clinton Administration?

In 1993, Sega partnered with AT&T to create a new device called the Edge 16. The Edge peripheral plugged into the cartridge slot of the Genesis console, and then a 2-player Sega game fit into the Edge. The device featured a telephone port so that two Edge owners could play against each other. This was possible because button mashes were transmitted over the phone line and the Edge device fooled the game into thinking the remote player was using the second controller on the Genesis. If the opponents plugged a telephone handset or hands-free headset into the Edge, they could call each other names as they played.

The Edge also had memory slots for storage cards capable of saving custom video game characters that could be used on other Edge-enabled consoles. Game makers could even develop special edition memory cards with exclusive characters, levels, or equipment, or make these extras available for download to an existing card.

Despite these advanced features, the Edge 16 never caught on with consumers. It was so unceremoniously canceled that I couldn’t even find any information on its demise. One possible stumbling block was that game makers had to tweak their code for the Edge device to work, adding to production costs.

5. Commercial Brake (1994 Winter CES)

Remember when you got your first TiVo? Remember how awesome it was to be able to easily skip past all those commercials? If you'd been at Winter CES in 1994, you could have been skipping commercials long before TiVo with Arista Technologies' Commercial Brake.

The $160 device sat between the VCR and the TV, and worked by looking for the black frame inserted before and after commercial breaks during the broadcast. The Brake would mark these points on an unused portion of the VHS tape and then, during playback, would blank out the screen and automatically fast-forward between them. Although the Commercial Brake was an add-on peripheral, Arista hoped to have the technology integrated into new VCRs over the coming years.

After CES, the Commercial Brake received a fair amount of buzz in the consumer electronics field. However, it couldn't capitalize on the publicity, because Arista became mired in a lengthy legal battle with the actual inventor of the commerical-sensing technology. The device's release onto the market was delayed until 1996, the same year that DVD debuted to much fanfare at CES, signaling the death knell of the VCR.

6. The Listen Up Player (1997 Winter CES)

At the 1997 Winter CES, the trade show floor was abuzz with excitement about the Listen Up Player from Audio Highway. The $299 gadget even won the CES Innovations '97 Award. And considering you probably use a descendent of the Listen Up every day at the office, at the gym, or during your commute, there's no doubt it was innovative, even if no one remembers it.

With special “AudioWiz” software installed on their desktop PC, users downloaded previously recorded MP3s, ranging from newspaper and magazine articles, movie and music reviews, or even their own emails that were recorded via a text-to-voice translator. The MP3s were then copied to the Listen Up, a small, portable, battery-powered device that played the audio back through standard headphones. This all sounds like pretty standard stuff today, but it was groundbreaking in 1997, because the Listen Up was the first portable MP3 player on the market.

While it might have been the first, it wasn't the first successful one. According to Time Magazine, only about 25 Listen Up Players were produced and an unknown number were ever actually sold. It would seem that the Listen Up Player was just a little too soon for consumers. Only a year later, the Diamond Rio PMP300 portable MP3 player debuted and went on to sell over 200,000 units.

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Scott Jarvie
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Design
Optical Illusion Rug Creates a Bottomless Void in Your Floor
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Scott Jarvie

Artist Scott Jarvie doesn’t believe home goods need to be warm and inviting to earn a spot in the house. That’s certainly the case with his mind-bending void rug: When viewed from a certain perspective, the interior design piece inspires feelings of dread rather than comfort.

According to designboom, Jarvie achieved the rug’s bottomless black hole illusion using clever, two-dimensional design elements. To people standing directly over it, the item resembles a shaded crescent moon cupping a flat black circle. But adjust your position, and the simple rug morphs into a stomach-turning void in the middle of your living room floor.

If the circular rug isn’t trippy enough, Jarvie also made a rectangular runner that can turn an entire hallway into an empty pit. Neither rug is something you’d want to forget you own on a midnight trip to the bathroom.

Void rug optical illusion.

Jarvie’s art isn’t limited to floor rugs that trick the eye. The Scotland-based artist’s creative furniture and home decor includes laundry balls, a cling wrap dispenser, and a chair made from 10,000 plastic drinking straws.

Void rug optical illusion.

Void rug optical illusion.

[h/t designboom]

All images courtesy of Scott Jarvie.

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Amazon
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Smart Shopping
This Week's Best Amazon Deals You Can Still Get
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Amazon

As a recurring feature, we share some amazing Amazon deals we’ve turned up. These items were the ones that were the most popular with our readers this week, and they’re still available.

Mental Floss has affiliate relationships with certain retailers (including Amazon) and may receive a small percentage of any sale. But we only get commission on items you buy and don’t return, so we’re only happy if you’re happy. Good luck deal hunting!

GADGETS, TOYS, AND MEDIA

Funko Pop Television Bob Ross Collectible Figure for $9.99 (list price $10.99)

SanDisk Ultra CZ48 32GB USB 3.0 Flash Drive Transfer Speeds Up To 100MB/s-SDCZ48-032G-UAM46 for $11.99 (list price $19.99)

[Upgraded to 6700mAh] Anker Astro E1 Candy-Bar Sized Ultra Compact Portable Charger, External Battery Power Bank, with High-Speed Charging PowerIQ Technology (Black) for $16.99 (list price $59.99)

Mpow Car Phone Mount,CD Slot Car Phone Holder Universal Car Cradle Mount with Three-Side Grips and One-Touch Design for iPhone 8/8Plus/7/7Plus/6s/6P/5S, Galaxy S5/S6/S7/S8, Google, LG, Huawei and More for $9.99 (list price $23.99)

Solar Charger, 10000mAh Solar Power Bank Portable Battery Pack Cellphone Charger with 2 LED Flashlights, Solar Panel with Compass and Carabiner for IOS and Android Cellphones(Orange) for $23.99 (list price $69.99)

Anker 60W 10-Port USB Wall Charger, PowerPort 10 for iPhone 7 / 6s / Plus, iPad Pro / Air 2 / mini, Galaxy S7 / S6 / Edge / Plus, Note 5 / 4, LG, Nexus, HTC and More for $32.99 (list price $99.99)

Dutch Blitz for $8.96 (list price $12.99)

OontZ Angle 3 PLUS Edition 10W+ Portable Bluetooth Speaker, Richer Bass, 30-Hour Playtime, Dual Proprietary Drivers for Superior Sound, Water Resistant IPX5 Wireless Speaker by Cambridge SoundWorks for $33.99 (list price $89.99)

LEGO Classic Creative Supplement 10693 for $16.19 (list price $19.99)

Cambivo Bluetooth Headphones, Wireless Earbuds w/Noise Cancellation Microphone, IPX7 Waterproof HD Stereo Sweatproof Earphones, for Running, Gym and Workout 10 Hour Battery Headset for $19.99 (list price $49.99)

NEXGADGET Detachable Multi-Port USB Charging Station, 24W 4-Port USB Charging Dock (Gold) for $29.99 (list price $69.99)

KITCHEN

Ado Glo Kitchen Shears - Stainless Steel Multi-Function Kitchen Scissors with Sharp Blade - Professional Poultry Shears for $12.95 (list price $49.99)

TedGem 6 Pack Silicone Stretch Lids, Various Sizes Expandable Durable Reusable Silicone Stretch Wrap, BPA FREE , Heat Resistant, Dishwasher, Microwave and Oven Safe Stretch Lids Covers for $9.98 (list price $19.99)

OMorc Ice Cube Trays 4 Pack, Easy-Release Silicone and Flexible 14-Ice Trays with Spill-Resistant Removable Lid, LFGB Certified & BPA Free, Stackable Durable and Dishwasher Safe for $12.99 (list price $29.99)

Fred UNZIPPED Hand-Blown Glass Bowl for $17.12 (list price $20.00)

MIRA 34 oz Double Wall All Stainless Steel French Press For Coffee or Tea | Insulated Coffee Pot & Maker Keeps Brewed Coffee or Tea Warm for Hours (34 oz French Press with Bonus Long Spoon) for $19.99 (list price $44.99)

Utopia Kitchen Premium Class Stainless-Steel 12 Knife Set with Acrylic Stand for $35.69 (list price $299.99)

GDEALER Waterproof Meat Thermometer Digital Super Fast Instant Read Thermometer BBQ Thermometer with Calibration and Backit Function Cooking Thermometer for Food, Candy, Milk, Tea, BBQ Grill Smokers for $14.99 (list price $33.99)

Emoji Party Wine Charm Set of 12 Funny Unique Emojies Silicone Suction Theme Label Champagne Glass Bottle Mug Glassware Marker Accessories Gift Idea for Women Men Boy Girl kid Happy Birthday for $6.99 (list price $20.99)

SimpleTaste Egg Cooker Egg Steamer Electric Egg Poacher Egg Boiler 7 Egg Capacity for $17.99 (list price $28.99)

The Original GORILLA GRIP (TM) Set of 3 Non-Slip Reversible Cutting Boards, BPA Free, FDA Approved Materials (Set of 3 Boards: Black) for $17.99 (list price $39.99)

Crock-Pot 6 Qt 8-in-1 Multi-Use Express Crock Programmable Slow Cooker, Pressure Cooker, Sauté, and Steamer, Stainless Steel (SCCPPC600-V1) for $67.99 (list price $79.99)

Sistema Klip It Collection Cracker Food Storage Container, Large, 60 Ounce/ 7.5 Cup for $8.70 (list price $12.49)

Icicle Funnel Collapsible Set of 2, Foldable Funnel for Liquid Transfer 100% Food Grade Silicone (Blue & Green) for $5.97 (list price $11.20)

Blendtec TB-621-25 Total Blender Classic with WildSide+ Jar, Black (Certified Refurbished) for $189.99 (list price $224.97)

Kitchen Utensils - 8 Piece Cooking Utensils - Nonstick Utensil Set - Silicone and Stainless Steel Kit - For Pots and Pans - Serving Tongs, Spoon, Spatula Tools, Pasta Server, Ladle, Strainer, Whisk for $24.95 (list price $59.99)

Waiters Corkscrew by HiCoup – Professional Grade Natural Rosewood All-in-one Corkscrew, Bottle Opener and Foil Cutter, the Favoured Choice of Sommeliers, Waiters and Bartenders Around the World for $10.44 (list price $25.95)

Set of 9 Grey Beverage Chilling Stones [Chill Rocks] Whiskey Stones for Whiskey and other Beverages - in Gift Box with Velvet Carrying Pouch - Made of 100% Pure Soapstone - by Quiseen for $10.00 (list price $18.99)

HOME

Printed Blackout Room Darkening Color Block Grommet Curtain Panel 52 inch wide by 84 inch long - Decorative Curtains by Utopia Bedding (Printed Grey) for $21.99 (list price $39.99)

URPOWER Essential Oil Diffuser 130ml Wood Grain Ultrasonic Aromatherapy Oil Diffuser with Adjustable Mist Mode Waterless Auto Shut-off humidifier and 7 Color Changing LED Lights for Home Office Baby for $21.99 (list price $49.99)

Portable Garment Steamers for Clothes, Aicok 200ml High Capacity Handheld Travel Clothes Steamer, 900W Fast-Heat Powerful Fabric Steamer Perfect for Home and Travel, with Brush & Travel Pouch, Black for $25.99 (list price $89.99)

Whitmor Supreme Wide Stacking Shelf, Chrome for $15.35 (list price $32.02)

Mellanni Bed Sheet Set - Brushed Microfiber 1800 Bedding - Wrinkle, Fade, Stain Resistant - Hypoallergenic - 4 Piece (Queen, White) for $19.70 (list price $59.99)

LIHAO 12 Piece Set Rustproof Stainless Steel Shower Curtain Rings Hooks for Bathroom Shower Rod for $5.97 (list price $16.99)

Yankee Candle Large Jar Candle, Guave Coconut Fusion for $17.56 (list price $22.86)

ThermoPro TP55 Digital Hygrometer Indoor Thermometer Humidity Gauge with Jumbo Touchscreen and Backlight Temperature Humidity Monitor for $13.99 (list price $29.99)

TasteLife 105 GSM Deep Pocket Bed Sheet Set Brushed Hypoallergenic Microfiber 1800 Bedding Sheets Wrinkle, Fade, Stain Resistant - 4 Piece(White,Queen) for $14.90 (list price $119.90)

Dirt Devil Scorpion Quick Flip Corded Bagless Handheld Vacuum SD20005RED for $24.99 (list price $29.99)

Body Pillowcase, 100% Cotton, 300 Thread Count, 21x60 Pillow Cover by American Pillowcase, Fits 20 x 54, White for $14.99 (list price $23.96)

StorageManiac 3-tier Folding Water-Resistant Compact Steel Clothes Drying Rack - 22.44x14.57x41.34 - Inches for $29.99 (list price $69.99)

ComfiLife Coccyx Orthopedic Memory Foam Office Chair and Car Seat Cushion for Back Pain and Sciatica Relief (Gray) for $29.95 (list price $59.95)

Nontoxic EVA Shower Curtain Clear, Wimaha Mildew Resistant Anti-Bacterial Shower Curtain Liner Waterproof Water Repellent Shower Liner, 72 x 72, Clear for $15.99 (list price $30.00)

Smart Home Bedding Super Plush Pillow Dust Mite Resistant Down Alternative (Queen/Standard, 2 Pack) for $24.99 (list price $99.99)

LINENSPA Zippered Encasement Waterproof, Dust Mite Proof, Bed Bug Proof Breathable Mattress Protector - Queen Size for $24.99 (list price $104.99)

HEALTH AND BEAUTY

Gillette Fusion Manual Men’s Razor Blade Refills, 12 Count, Mens Razors / Blades for $34.25 (list price $47.99)

Art Naturals Organic Moroccan Argan Oil Shampoo and Conditioner Set (2 x 16 Oz) - Sulfate Free - Volumizing & Moisturizing, Gentle on Curly & Color Treated Hair,For Men & Women Infused with Keratin for $26.13 (list price $26.13)

Dead Sea Mud Mask for Face & Body - 100% Natural Spa Quality - Best Pore Reducer & Minimizer to Help Treat Acne , Blackheads & Oily Skin – Tightens Skin for a Visibly Healthier Complexion – 8.8 OZ for $12.95 (list price $36.95)

DUDE Face Wipes, Energizing & Refreshing Scent, Infused with Pro Vitamin B-5 (3 Packs, 30 Wipes per Pack) for $14.37 (list price $17.97)

Philips Sonicare 2 Series Plaque Control Sonic Electric Rechargeable Toothbrush, HX6211/30 for $39.95 (list price $69.99)

Bed Head Curls in Check 1875 Watt Diffuser Hair Dryer for $29.99 (list price $34.99)

Qivange Makeup Brushes, Synthetic Foundation Eyeshadow Fan Brushes Set+Sponge Puff(12pcs,Silver) for $8.99 (list price $42.99)

Majestic Pure Argan Oil Shampoo, Offers Vitamin Enriched Gentle Hair Restoration Formula for Daily Use, Sulfate Free, Moroccan Oil & Potent Natural Ingredients, for Men and Women 16 fl. oz for $13.95 (list price $19.95)

ArtNaturals Signature Blend Essential Oils Set - (8 x 10ml) - 100% Pure of The Highest Quality - Therapeutic Grade - Recommended Aromatherapy Gift Set for $18.95 (list price $36.95)

Gillette Venus Comfortglide Women's Razor Blade Refills, White Tea, 6 Count, Womens Razors / Blades for $20.47 (list price $22.49)

CeraVe Daily Moisturizing Lotion 12 oz with Hyaluronic Acid and Ceramides for Normal to Dry Skin for $10.49 (list price $13.99)

Zyllion ZMA13BK Shiatsu Pillow Massager with Heat for Car, Home, or Office (Black) for $39.95 (list price $79.95)

Equinox International Dental Hygiene Kit - Includes Tarter Scraper/Scaling Instrument, Dental Pick, Dental Sickle, and Mouth Mirror - Professional Surgical Grade Dentist Approved Tools for $8.97 (list price $29.99)

OFFICE, SCHOOL, AND CRAFTS

rOtring Tikky Graphic Fineliner Pens, 0.7mm & 0.5mm & 0.3mm, Black Ink, 3 Count for $11.13 (list price $12.56)

X-ACTO XLR Electric Pencil Sharpener, Gold for $13.94 (list price $16.23)

Oxford Twin Pocket Folders, Letter Size, Gray, 25 per Box (57505) for $11.89 (list price $15.59)

Ohuhu 40 Colors Dual Tips Permanent Marker Pens Art Markers Highlighters with Carrying Case for Drawing Sketching Adult Coloring Highlighting and Underlining for $19.99 (list price $40.00)

Bukey Cable Clips - Self-Adhesive Desk Cable Organizer, Durable Cord Management, Wire Holder, Wire Management System, Pack of 10, Black for $6.99 (list price $14.95)

Avery Economy View Binder with 1-Inch Round Ring, White, Pack Of 4 (19200) for $12.53 (list price $15.99)

OUTDOORS, GARDEN, AND SPORTS

Kootek 5 Pack Tactical Mini LED Flashlight Ultra Bright 300 Lumens Handheld Flashlights Adjustable Focus Small for Kids Child Camping Cycling Hiking Emergency Torch Light for $15.99 (list price $19.99)

J5 Tactical Pen - 4 in 1 - Black Ball Point, Emergency Glass Breaker, DNA Collector, Personal Defence Device for $14.95 (list price $29.95)

YJWB Swimming Goggles, Anti-Fog, No Leaking UV Protection, Triathlon Swimming Goggles Men/Women Children Swim Goggles, Grey for $10.65 (list price $18.99)

Fit Simplify Resistance Loop Exercise Bands with Instruction Guide, Carry Bag, EBook and Online Workout Videos, Set of 5 for $10.95 (list price $49.97)

WORX TURBINE 12 Amp Corded Leaf Blower with 110 MPH and 600 CFM Output and Variable Speed Control – WG520 for $54.24 (list price $59.99)

Giantex 2 Pcs Patio Outdoor LoveSeat Coffee Table Set Furniture Bench With Cushion for $133.99 (list price $169.99)

Quik Chair Heavy Duty Folding Camp Chair - Grey for $12.91 (list price $29.99)

BlizeTec Survival Knife: Best 5-in-1 Tactical Pocket Folding Knife with LED Light, Seatbelt Cutter, Glass Breaker & Magnesium Fire Starter for $38.98 (list price $89.99)

Intex Pillow Rest Raised Airbed with Built-in Pillow and Electric Pump, Twin, Bed Height 16.5" for $20.54 (list price $39.99)

LED Camping Lantern, Tent Light With USB cable - Survival Kit for Emergency, Hurricane, Outage for $14.99 (list price $25.99)

TOOLS

Etekcity Lasergrip 1080 Non-contact Digital Laser Infrared Thermometer Temperature Gun -58℉~1022℉ (-50℃~550℃), Yellow and Black for $18.88 (list price $20.99)

URPOWER Motion Sensor Light, 10 LED Bulbs Battery Operated Wireless Motion Nightlight Portable Magnetic Security Closet Light Stick Up Motion Sensor Night Lights for Closets Hallway Stairway(3) for $22.99 (list price $32.99)

TEKTON 5941 Digital Tire Gauge, 100 PSI for $10.79 (list price $11.99)

VERY STRONG Magnetic Wristband & Extended Pick-Up Tool - 10 STRONG Magnets Wrapped Around Wrist - Holds Screws, Bolts, Drill Bits and More - Perfect Gift or Present for Handyman, Fathers or Women. for $9.91 (list price $12.39)

2 PCS IPOW Car Safety Antiskid Hammer Seatbelt Cutter Emergency Class/Window Punch Breaker Auto Rescue Disaster Escape Life-Saving Hammer Tool,Big for $8.39 (list price $13.89)

LE Headlamp LED, 4 Modes Headlight, Battery Powered Helmet Light for Camping, Running, Hiking and Reading, 3 AAA Batteries Included for $7.99 (list price $18.95)

Damaged Screw Extractor and Remover Set by Aisxle,Easily Remove Stripped or Damaged Screws. Made From H.S.S. 4341#, the Hardness Is 62-63hrc,Set of 4 Stripped Screw Removers for $11.88 (list price $39.99)

BLENDX 7mm to 19mm Ratchet Universal Sockets Metric Wrench Power Drill Adapter Set - Professional Repair Tools for $9.49 (list price $15.99)

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