Orientation for robots: TU Graz launches Christian-Doppler-Lab for Semantic 3D Computer Vision


Funded by Qualcomm Technologies, Inc. and the Austrian Federal Ministry of Science, Research and Economy, the team wants to enable computers to orientate themselves in a non-standard environment.

If you want to orientate yourself spatially, you have to perceive your environment and interpret what you perceive. This applies equally to robots as well as all other animate beings. Machines can see thanks to the latest camera technology and computer-controlled image-recognition methods which describe the environment in a standardised way by means of two-dimensional images. The right interpretation of what is seen on a two-dimensional level, however, leaves a lot to be desired...

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Damaged Brains - The Quest of Austrian MRI Scientist Alexander Rauscher


Concussions have been hot news recently. Jeanne Marie Laskas’ 2015 book on traumatic brain damage in U.S. football players was soon followed by a film of the same name, “Concussion,” starring Will Smith. Needless to say, while the medical community – and many parents – show signs of taking the problem seriously, the National Football League hasn’t exactly embraced the new findings. Let’s face it: Anything that challenges the machismo and big money of U.S. football has its work cut out for it.

But sports-related concussions aren’t unique to American football players – or even to boxers, whose brain trauma from repeated blows to the head was first described in 1929. Shift north 30 miles, just across the U.S.-Canadian border to Vancouver, BC. Here, at the University of British Columbia’s MRI Research Centre, neuroscientists are studying brain trauma. This being Canada, it’s no surprise that their focus is ice hockey players. Somewhat more surprising, one of their leading MRI researchers is an Austrian physicist, Dr. Alexander Rauscher.

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Quantum experiments designed by machines

Algorithm does not work intuitive – just as quantum physics

Quantum physics is counterintuitive. Many of the phenomena in the quantum world do not have a classical analog: In the quantum world, a coin is not either heads or tails – but can have both properties at the same time. For a better understanding of such phenomena, laboratory experiments are indispensable. Quantum physicist Mario Krenn and his colleagues in the group of Anton Zeilinger from the Faculty of Physics at the University of Vienna and the Austrian Academy of Sciences have developed an algorithm which designs new useful quantum experiments. As the computer does not rely on human intuition, it finds novel unfamiliar solutions. The research has just been published in the journal Physical Review Letters.

The idea was developed when the physicists wanted to create new quantum states in the laboratory, but were unable to conceive of methods to do so. “After many unsuccessful attempts to come up with an experimental implementation, we came to the conclusion that our intuition about these phenomena seems to be wrong. We realized that in the end we were just trying random arrangements of quantum building blocks. And that is what a computer can do as well – but thousands of times faster”, explains Mario Krenn, PhD student in Anton Zeilinger’s group and first author research.

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A High-Tech Lab with Low-Tech Legos

Engineering teams use them, kids use them, and we all have all made the unpleasant mistake of stepping on to them at least once in our life: Legos.

Long touted as a staple toy for the kids around of the world, the colorful bricks have garnered more and more attention in recent years for their varied applications and benefits over the past years.

Research conducted by the American Marketing Association has shown that Legos foster our creativity. And a separate study in the peer-reviewed journal, Early Child Development and Care, shows that they enable success in mathematics as well.

Richard Moser, an Austrian soft matter physicist at the Johannes Kepler University in Linz, Austria, has now enhanced our understanding and application of Legos with his latest research.

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Christine Marizzi: Hands-on Austrian Scientist Takes New York by Storm

Where would you look for a high-energy Austrian scientist with a passion for genetics and microbiology – more specifically, a passion for botanical stem-cell mutants, rainforest fieldwork, and Cretan orchids?

Perhaps the University of Vienna? Sure. Rainforest of the Austrians in Costa Rica? Natürlich! Cold Spring Harbor Lab’s DNA Learning Center West in Long Island, NY? Ideal place for her. Inner-city New York City schools? Hmmm … can you run that one by me again?

Yes, you heard correctly. Christine Marizzi, PhD, has undertaken professional projects in all of the above. But her work with middle school, high school, and college students throughout the NYC area has become one of the most fulfilling aspects of her scientific career.

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Measuring Millennia in “Devil’s Hole”

On the verge of the historic COP21 agreement, climate scientists and policy makers have set their sights on the future. Recently, that future has come to include the pollution-reduction pledges of the Paris agreement, which would permit the atmospheric temperature to increase only 2.7o Celsius by 2100.

To arrive at these precise calculations and conclusions, the climate community relies on accurate climate models such as those provided by Austrian scientists at the University of Innsbruck, who are currently scavenging through the subsurface of Nevada to shine new light on historical climate developments.

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Molecules, start your engines!

The Molecule-car Race International is not your conventional car race. Hosted later this year in Toulouse, France, the Molecule-car Race International will be the world’s first car race in which each vehicle is a molecule!

Austrian scientists will be among the participants in this first-ever edition of the Molecule-car Race International. A joint team consisting of scientists from Graz University of Technology & Rice University has created the world’s first single-molecule car!

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Top 10: Hardware Startups Austria 2015

In the past hardware startups have struggled when compared to app-based startups, however, the tide is turning as tech portals such as C-Net are pointing out. Venture capital investment in internet-connected hardware devices rising to $1.48 billion last year, a 76 percent increase from 2013.

Austria is no stranger to these developments as the local Austrian tech portal der Brutkasten has showcased. Discover below some of the Austrian hardware startups that left their mark in 2015!

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The Millet Project

When was the last time you ate millet?

If you answered never, Austrian scientist Dr. Patricia Bubner wants to change that. Her bold goal looks to "diversify agriculture and our diet by the cultivation and consumption of lesser-known grains such as millets."

The reasoning behind Bubner's activities is a compelling one, as she notes in the "The Millet Project", which is supported by the University of California at Berkeley:

 

Cereal grains go back a long way in human civilization. And what a variety we cultivated! Yet today, corn, wheat and rice comprise at least 89% of worldwide cereal production, in spite of the large variety of cereals traditionally available in different parts of the world. This, in turn, has caused losses in the variety of food and consequently nutrients in our diet, which together have adverse environmental and nutritional impacts.

 

Read more about Patricia's efforts in Salzburger Nachrichten , Kleine Zeitung, Tiroler Tageszeitung, as well as local US press

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Austrian Martin Nowak Calculates 3D Tumor Models

Source: harvard.edu

Most cancers in humans are large, complex composition of billion of cells measuring centimeters in diameter. This has left scientists with a dilemma. One the one hand, some models today allow capturing of the spatial aspects of tumors, however they do not capture their genetic changes. Non-spatial models on the other hand, are able to portray a tumors' evolution, but not its three-dimensional structure, and characteristics.

Martin Nowak, Austrian scientist, and Director of the Program for Evolutionary Dynamics and Professor of Mathematics and of Biology at Harvard University, has together with scientists from the University of Edinburgh, and Johns Hopkins University now succeeded in developing the first 3-D model of solid tumors.

This new model reflects both, the three-dimensional shape, and the genetic evolution of cancer tumors. Moreover, the new model explains, why cancer cells have a surprising number of genetic mutations in common, how driver mutations spread through the whole tumor, and how drug resistance evolves. Nowak's model currently only suggests, however, it might soon be able to show how targeting short-range cellular migratory activity could have marked effects on tumor growth rates.

Nowak notes to the Medical Press that "Previously, we and others have mostly used non-spatial models to study cancer evolution. But those models do not describe the spatial characteristics of solid tumors. Now, for the first time, we have a computational model that can do that."

The research findings of Nowak and his colleagues from the University of Edinburgh and Johns Hopkins University have been published in the renowned Nature magazine.

 

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TU Vienna ‘Invisible’ Meta Material Breakthrough

There has been a shift in the fundamentals of how light waves interact. Scientists at the Technical University of Vienna have succeeded in manipulating the scattering of light waves, and have created a new novel design for undistorted light waves.

Until recently, the paradigm within science has been that when a light wave penetrates a material that it is usually changed drastically. In effect, as soon as a light wave hits an obstacle, its constant intensity is immediately destroyed due to scattering.

This fundamental restriction has now been lifted with the most recent research developments from Vienna. Konstantinos Makris and Stefan Rotter from the Technical University of Vienna working together with Ziad Musslimani from Florida State University, as well Demetrios Christodoulides from the University of Central Florida, have been able to calculate and show materials which allow new kind of light waves to not scatter on its surface. Essentially, these specially designed non-hermitian materials remain completely unperturbed (see Fig. 2).

                      

Fig. 1 - A wave penetrates a material: usually this leads to wave interference, to darker and brighter areas. Source: TU Wien

Fig. 2 - Specially designed non-hermitian materials remain completely unperturbed. Source: TU Wien

 

Makris and Rotters research developments are reminiscent of so-called ‘meta materials’, which have a special structure that allows them to diffract light in unusual ways. In effect, these meta materials allow for the light to bend around the object, so that the object becomes invisible.

Makris notes that the “…the material is completely invisible to the wave, even though the light passes through the material and interacts with it.”

Routine fabrication of meta materials is still not in sight, however, the research conducted at TU Vienna, has enabled the advance of invisible meta materials, which will certainly find applications in many industry fields.

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Austrian Leads Marine Quest Fuel

Cruising along America’s shores, and lakes in a boat might be the quintessential American summer experience, however, 17 million recreational boats have taken their ecological toll on the US in the past decades.

In order to counteract these negative externalities, the Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory has teamed with marine industry partners such as Bombardier Recreational Products to investigate alternative fuels for recreational marine applications.

Past recommendations would have been to increase ethanol levels in fuel mixes. This advise, however, is ill suited for the recreational marine industry, due to the nature of motor boats, ethanol attracting water, potentially allow surrounding water to enter fuel tanks and affect the engines performance.

Thomas Wallner, Austrian scientist, research engineer, and Principal Investigator at Argonne’s Center for Transportation Research has therefore researched, identified, and advocated for the use of butanol, which unlike ethanol does not attract water, and does not harm the engine.

Wallner stresses that “Butanol at 16 percent blend level works as well as ethanol at 10 percent under tested conditions.” In effect, after years of testing the National Marine Manufacturers Association (NMMA) has approved this new butanol fuel, which seeks to substitute the ecologically more harmful 10-15% ethanol fuel blends.

Your guilt free boat cruise can start now!

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Overcome you fear: Austrian Neuroscience Advancement

Our brain is a high-speed myriad of synapsis, which requires constant stimulated communication in order to overcome obstacles, and challenges.

Austrian scientists alongside their American counterparts have recently highlighted how communications between the control, and fear centers of our brain can help us overcome fear.

Dr. Nicolas Singewald, Head of Neuropharmacology at the University of Innsbruck, and his research highlight how fear can be mitigated, and even extinct. Singewald’s research builds on the notions of Ivan Pavlov, the renowned Russian physiologist who coined the term ‘extinction’, which describes gradual weakening of a conditioned response that results in the behavior decreasing or disappearing.

The research team including University of Innsbruck scientists Christina Brehm, Nicolas Singewald, and Nigel Whittle looked at the communication between the prefrontal cortex (controls the fear in our brains) and amygdala (generates fear in our brain). The activity, and intensity between these two parts determines the rate of fear extinction in them.

With this in mind, the researchers conducted manipulation experiments on mice that measured the extinction rate while the prefrontal cortex-amygdala neural circuit was stimulated. Singewald et al. noticed that a targeted “…stimulation of the ventromedial prefrontal cortex (vmPFC)–amygdala pathway facilitated extinction memory formation” as their findings notes.

This stimulation is done via optogenics i.e. a laser that is able to surgically target the exact prefrontal cortex-amygdala neural circuit. The University of Innsbruck scientists hope that with these new findings they will be able to research which neuro receptors along the prefrontal cortex-amygdala neural circuit would be susceptive to pharmological influence.

In effect, it is not utopian to suggest that fear might be treatable in the near future with targeted medication or therapy, thanks to the research findings of the University of Innsbruck scientists, and their partners.

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Austrian Chlamydia Vaccination Breakthrough

 

Chlamydia is the pathogen that causes one of the most common sexually transmitted diseases. Annually, over 100 million people contract the bacterial infection, which in severe cases can lead to blindness and infertility.

 

Human Pap smear showing chlamydial infection. Source: Harvard

 

These symptoms, however, could now become a thing of the past. An international research team led by Dr. Georg Stary from the University Clinic of Dermatology at the Medical University of Vienna have discovered how to stimulate the immune response to Chlamydiae, both efficiently and preventively. In effect, providing a pathway for chlamydia vaccinations.

 

 

The research findings of the team were recently published in Science magazine, the world's leading journal of original scientific research, global news, and commentary. In their research study, Dr. Stary and his team were able to mimic a Chlamydia infection in a mouse, using nanotechnology. They then developed a protective vaccine, which activates two waves of immune cells. Stary points out the importance of their discovery, stating if “the infection is not picked up in the early stages, it can progress into a chronic form and then antibiotics are mostly ineffective."

Vaccinations against chlamydia have been direly requested by the medical world, especially, as “…previous attempts to immunize humans against Chlamydia infections not only failed but, in some cases, even made them more susceptible to infection with Chlamydiae,” Stary notes.

According to MedUni Vienna-Dermatology, the new findings could also lead to the successful development of an effective strategy for vaccinating against other types of mucosal infection.

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Austria = Europe's Crowdfunding Pioneer


Crowdfunding can take ridiculous measures as Kickstarter’s 2014 potato salad campaign demonstrated. However, the necessity, and economic impact of crowdfunding remains undisputed.

The World Bank in its 2013 report highlights the rapid 524% compound annual growth rate for rewards-based crowdfunding between 2009 and 2012. This is due to the fact that crowdfunding remains one of the cheapest and easiest forms of capital formation till date.

Despite the tremendous market and potential of crowdfunding, its success has largely been reserved and focused within North America, the region raising 59% of worldwide capital in 2012.

To foster entrepreneurial growth in Austria, the Austrian Council of Ministers recently approved a new crowdfunding bill, considered to be at the legislative forefront of crowdfunding legislation in Europe. In recent years Austrians have warmed up to the idea of crowdfunding. A 2013 survey show 56% of Austrians surveyed as being positive about crowdfunding and the idea investing small amounts of money into concrete projects in return for interest or revenue shares. 

Reinhold Mitterlehner, Austria’s Vice Chancellor and Federal Minister of Science, Research and Economy, underlined that crowdfunding is considered to be a “meaningful complement to traditional credit financing” and aims to strengthen the entrepreneurial spirit in Austria. Vice Chancellor Mitterlehner believes that crowdfunding platforms provide startups with immediate, “…feedback on their product ideas directly from the market, and that at a very early phase”.

 

 

Austria is ready to embrace this new legislation change with local platforms such as conda.at, 1000x1000.at wemakeit.com and greenrocket.com complementing the international platform leaders; Kickstarter and Indiegogo.

 

 

The following changes have been reflected in the new Austrian crowdfunding law:

 

  • In the future, the obligation to publish a complete capital market prospectus will first apply starting with an issue volume of EUR 5 million. At present this limit is EUR 250,000.
  • The requirement to put together a prospectus for issue volumes between EUR 250,000 and EUR 5 million has also been changed. In the future, only a simplified prospectus (prospectus requirement light) is required for an issue volume of between EUR 1.5 million and EUR 5 million.
  • One investor can invest up to EUR 5,000 per project.
  • This EUR 5,000 limit can be surpassed if the investor earns a net salary of more than EURE 2,500 per month. In this case, the investor is allowed to invest double his net monthly earnings.
  • One option is for investors to invest ten percent of his or her financial assets if this amount exceeds EUR 5,000 
  • Similar to the Consumer Protection Law, investors have the right to withdraw within two weeks.
  • Issuers may not raise more than EUR 5 million in capital over a seven year period, less the amounts already paid back to investors. If this threshold is exceeded, the company is required to issue a capital market prospectus.
  • The investment is made with the issuing SME or via crowdfunding platforms. 

 

Similar legislative initiatives have been conducted on a local level in the US. The District of Columbia amongst others passing a novel legislation change in October 2014. The Department of Insurance, Securities and Banking approving crowdfunding rules that allow entrepreneurs to raise as much as $2 million from city residents and businesses. The maximum amount a funder can invest varies

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Moves & Milestones

 

BRIDGES presents career steps and other outstanding events in the professional lives of Austrian researchers and innovators in the US and Canada.

 

 

Harald C. Ott, M.D. an Austrian researcher and thoracic surgeon at Massachusetts General Hospital. Winner of the ASCINA award 2013, he recently became the first scientist to grow the world’s first lab-grown biolimb; a living, functioning, artificial leg that responds to stimuli and even circulates blood.  Regeneration experts say that the tiny pink rat leg is a step toward the future of artificial limbs. Ott is also an assistant professor of Surgery at Harvard Medical School. 

 



Dr. Alexander Rauscher has been awarded with the highly coveted Canada Research Chair (CRC) Tier II in Developmental Neuroimaging. The CRC award is $500,000 for five years, and can be extended for another five years. With this award comes a faculty position at the Department of Pediatrics and the Child and Family Research Institute at the University of British Columbia, where he is going to continue his research on quantitative magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of brain tissue damage due to injury and disease and on methods that are able to measure tissue repair due to treatment. In babies, for instance, such brain mapping techniques will be able to show whether a new treatment is effective, years before a clinical manifestation of treatment success can be detected.

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Austrian ‘eGlasses’ Receives Google Research Award

eGlasses Application - Source: eGlasses

 

A team of the University of Applied Sciences Upper Austria was able to secure one of the Google Research Awards 2015, funding their cutting-edge research on smart clothing, and its interoperability with augmented devices.

One of Googles numerous academic outreach programs. Source: Google

 

Google Research Award are granted to top universities around the world in order to support the work of world-class full-time faculty members, and to advance Google’s products and services. In 2015, 808 applications from over 55 countries, and six continents were submitted, but only 112 projects were awarded a one-year Google grant.

 

 

David Lindlbauer and his team in Hagenberg’s Media Interaction Lab have been working on the eGlasses Project which is focused on the development of an open platform of multisensory electronic glasses.

 

eGlasses Logo - Source: eGlasses

 

The project appears to be Austria’s answer to Google Glass, and has raised Google’s interest in the group’s approach to perceptual media. With the 2014 acquisition of Nest, Google is positioned to apply projects such as eGlasses to advance its smart home strategy.

It won’t be long until perceptual media devices will allow us to control smart phones, Google Glass devices, or any other Wi-Fi equipped hardware through smart clothing that has been equipped with conductive fibers. So don’t be surprised if in the future Austrian tech will enable you to control your air conditioning unit via your sweater.

 

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New York Times: Startups Look to Vienna!

The New York Times has mirrored Forbes, who have called the Pioneers Festival a "smarter SXSW."

 

See the impressions captured by Reuters, and why Austria is on its way to accrue its status as the number one startup destination in Europe! 

 

 

 

NYT Source: http://www.nytimes.com/video/multimedia/100000003708547/startups-look-to-vienna-as-next-big-thing.html

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Austria’s Entrepreneurship Avenue

Austria is ready for change, and ready to embark on its journey to become Europe’s startup nation by 2020, as the Austrian State Secretary Harald Mahrer recently noted in an interview.

To enable favorable conditions for the future entrepreneurs of tomorrow, new talent pipelines need to be set in place, which provide Austria with viable talent. The ECN Network, and its Director Rudolf Dömötör have been on the forefront of these efforts, establishing the Entrepreneurship Avenue amongst others. 

As Austria's largest startup event series for students, it seeks to captivate students for the entrepreneurial lifestyle via four lab sessions and a one-day conference, which tackles basic yet essential questions on how to finance ones startup, up to how to penetrate and disrupt highly regulated industries.

 

 

Georg Fuerlinger, researcher at the Austrian Institute of Technology, and regular speaker at the OSTA/ABA Austrian Startup and Innovation Scene events in the USA, participated in this years Entrepreneurship Avenue, which he sees essential to Austria, "...unlocking its potential for innovation."

As a featured mentor he was able to pass on his advice to the eclectic startups, and students that participated. The labs and the conference, which drew over 750 students were hosted on the new futuristic campus of the Vienna Business University.

 

Fuerlinger applauded the interdisciplinary approach of the Entrepreneurship Avenue, which underlined that the startup arena is not only reserved to business or management students. Instead the translation of research to the market place is an essential one, which can be facilitated thanks to 3D-printing for example, a realm that was highlighted in one of the numerous Entrepreneurship Avenue conference workshops. 

To keep with the career focused outlook of the conference, JobSwipr, a joint Technical University Vienna-Vienna Business University team went on to win the pitch award with their mobile job search application/platform. The viability of product was recently underlined again when the team won the Future Founder Challenge commissioned by the Austrian Rudolf Sallinger Foundation

 

 

Austria's entrepreneurial effort shave not gone unrecognized, as the US Ambassador joined the Austrian State Secretary Harald Mahrer in greeting the young innovation students of tomorrow.

 

The ongoing international Pioneers Festival will set the stage for market ready startups, and could very well be the center stage for many of the young students that will decide to travel down the their very own 'Entrepreneurship Avenue' in the future. 

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Snapchat Doctors

 

Snapchat, the video messaging app of millennials? Think again!

Doctors today use WhatsApp, and Snapchat to share pictures, and medical information with each other in hospitals. This fun Challenge Festival trivia told by the the Irish startup Medxnote might have caused chuckles yesterday, however, underlines the larger dichotomy between digitalization, and healthcare, that was stressed throughout day three of the 1776 Challenge Festival, which highlighted the health sector its national, as well global challenges.

 

Medxnote looks to create a safe, secure app that will allow doctors to exchange information in a much more simple, yet effective manner. Source: Medxnote

Digital solutions such as provided by Medxnote highlight the larger trends in healthcare, which are looking to marry data and devices. Successful cross-pollination even has the capacity to increase revenue, and decrease work for doctors. A good example being the DC-based startup Babyscripts, a prenatal focused startup, which via wireless hardware captures weight, blood pressure, and app data, which is communicated to doctors, and consequently allows providers to appropriately tailor the way they deliver care to each of their patients’ specific needs. 

 

Babyscripts wireless hardware, which is sent to expecting mothers. Source: Babyscripts 

The take-away of the day were bold, candid, and straight-forward: healthcare will become personalized, it will become digitalized, however, we need to make sure that this added value is shared with all patients alike. With this in mind 1776 choose two healthcare finalists, which both equally showed a strong social impact, paired with a scalable, and sustainable revenue model. 

 

 

 

The winners...via 1776

 

Unima — Unima is a biotechnology startup that developed a fast and low cost diagnostics technology that allows health data collection globally and analytics in real time. Mexico City, Mexico

 

ReliefWatch — ReliefWatch is an inventory management platform targeted at multinational non-governmental organizations operating health clinics in developing countries. Chicago, Illinois

 

 

 

Quote of the Day

 

"The killer app in fighting Ebola was human beings." Ronald Klain, Ebola Response Coordinator for the Executive Office of the President.

 

Tweet of the Day

 

The Ambassador of Australia to the U.S. personally welcomed the two Australian entrepreneurs competing at the Challenge Festival.

 

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