Sine Wave Entertainment launches Breakroom 3D social hub for remote teams in VR, PC, or mobile devices

Sine Wave Entertainment, which sought to build a Second Life style experience in virtual reality with Sinespace, has launched its Breakroom 3D social hub for remote teams as a way to counter the divisions forced upon us by the coronavirus. It’s like taking video conference meetings to a new level, for anyone with VR, PC web, or mobile hardware.

Virtual reality companies like Sine Wave see an opportunity to pivot because of the coronavirus. They see the boring Zoom meetings that we’re all forced to endure. And the VR companies believe they can provide an experience that is a lot more interesting and immersive. Spaces recently announced something similar where yo can attend meetings in VR.

Breakroom enables remote teams to meet, work, and hang out together in secure, shared virtual spaces. It combines video conferencing, meeting rooms, casual games, live events, and multiplayer hangouts. You can participate via webcam video, or build an animated avatar to wander around the world. It works today on the PC, Mac, Android, and tethered VR headsets like the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive.

The London-based company sees Breakroom as a way for remote teams to engage with each other.

“When we went into lockdown in the U.K., we immediately began hearing about the mental health issues in terms of people being isolated,” said Sine Wave Entertainment CEO Rohan Freeman, in an interview with VentureBeat. “Some people are used to working at home, but for a lot of people, it really isn’t like that. That absence of a social graph is why we started to build the product. The goal is to have all of the functionality that you would get from a standard conferencing like Zoom or GoToMeeting or whatever else. It has chat and voice over IP and desktop sharing and webcam sharing and so on and so forth. And then, alongside that, you have all of these other activities that people from within one organization can come and do together.”

I saw it in a demo, and it was like being in a VR game. But in a scene where there were a bunch of chairs around a table, there were animated characters in the middle of a town square with lots of colorful objects. There were also some people tuning in via video, as you can see in the top picture.

Pivoting fast to Breakroom

Above: An amphitheater for presentations in Breakroom.

Sine Wave also has its Sinespace virtual world and building tools. But it moved to knock out Breakroom as soon as it realized the opportunity that the coronavirus was creating, Freeman said.

With more and more teams working from home — most recently in response to the Coronavirus — major organizations are turning to online services that can replace brick and mortar office functionality. Freeman said some big companies are already using it, like tech companies and banks.

But standard conferencing and collaboration tools are not built to meet the social and wellness needs. Breakroom provides the video conferencing and media sharing tools you would expect from any collaboration platform, and combines it with a colorful, welcoming online world filled with team-building exercises, brainstorming sessions, casual games, competitions, live events, office parties, breaktime meetups, and everyday staff chitchat.

“You can provide the water cooler moments, where the conversations aren’t about a specific meeting or a specific goal,” Freeman said. “You can have a chat with someone even though you don’t have a specific meeting with them. These accidental engagements are essential to maintaining the culture and the ability of people to have a sense of who they are. Video conferencing systems weren’t built for this kind of experience.”

He added, “Our goal is to provide a space where all that can happen, where teams can stay motivated, stay together, keep the company culture alive, keep their sense of self alive. And, and, you know, have a sense of community and togetherness. You can do a presentation on a white board. You can walk over to the other side of the park and grab a coffee.”

Business owners, executives, and HR directors can go here for more details and to request a demo. (Breakroom is available free to schools and at a 50% discount to registered charities.) Anyone can demo Breakroom for PC, Mac, and Android tablets for free here at

Freeman said that virtual worlds also increase memory retention (because humans think and imagine in three dimensions). And he said a social virtual world also provides fun, safe ways to enhance team spirit and to sustain institutional culture and help build positive momentum.

Built completely on Sinespace, a verified solutions provider for Unity, Breakroom was built by a team with years of experience developing virtual worlds for numerous enterprise clients including IBM, the US Department of Defense, NATO and numerous academic institutions and private companies.

Breakroom is an off-the-shelf solution that makes meeting in VR easy. It has features such as a town square hangout which can be branded. It also has a presentation amphitheater, private and public meeting rooms, a full suite of communication tools (VOIP, IM and in-world email), video conferencing, media and desktop sharing, and regular live social events including music, cinema, pub quizzes, and seminar sessions.

It also has numerous casual game regions and game tables, in-world building and scene editing, mature APIs for integrating other enterprise applications, and HIPAA (healthcare law) compliant regions for one to one therapy sessions.

To create 3D experiences with low lag and accessibility on tablets and non-gaming laptops, Breakroom uses assets from Synty Studios, a production house founded by veterans of WETA Digital which specializes in beautiful but low poly models. Freeman said there are more than 100,000 assets available for Breakroom out of more than 2 million available for Sinespace. Sine Wave has 30 people.

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Oculus is Selling Refurbished Original Rifts for $300 – Road to VR

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    Looking for a solid VR headset on the cheap? Or maybe a legacy headset for your growing collection? Oculus is now selling its 2016-era Rift for $300 for a limited time.

    The company is selling a limited supply of refurbished packages containing the original Oculus Rift and Touch controllers direct on its website. The new Rift S costs $400, although stock has proven to be touch and go due to coronavirus-related supply chain disruptions.

    Released in March 2016, Oculus Rift originally shipped without Touch controllers, instead arriving with an Xbox One gamepad, a single external tracking sensor, and a basic remote for media navigation—the entire bundle priced at $600. It wasn’t until December 2016 that Touch finally arrived, which came with an additional tracking sensor for a total of $200. Granted, cheaper all-in bundles were offered throughout Rift’s life cycle before being replaced by the Rift S in May 2019, as it was offered at an all-time low of $350 near its end.

    Rift S (left) and Rift (right) – Photo by Road to VR

    Although the original Rift features a notably lower resolution than the newer Rift S—dual 1,080 × 1,200 OLED panels clocked at 90 Hz vs a single 2,560 x 1,440 LCD panel (1,280 x 1,440 pixels per eye) at 80 Hz on Rift S—it does feature a few features Oculus removed in the newer model.

    Thanks to its mechanical interpupilary distance (IPD) adjustments, a wider range of users can use the original; Rift S uses an in-software solution that is said to accommodate 70% of users over the 95% provided by the 2016-era Rift.

    It also has a rigid headstrap that fits snuggly to your head and integrated audio, the latter of which was replaced in Rift S for a down-firing, open-ear audio design. Your mileage may vary, but some users like the original headstrap over the new halo style.

    SEE ALSOOculus Rift S Review – A Good Choice for VR Newcomers, a Difficult Choice for VR Vets

    Granted, one of the biggest differences is the original’s ‘outside-in’ tracking sensors, which require direct line-of-sight with the headset and controllers to track properly. For best results, you’ll also need three USB 3.0 ports, a single USB 2.0 port, and an HDMI 1.3 port—a bit of a cabling nightmare in comparison to Rift S’ more simplified requirement of a single DisplayPort 1.2 port and one USB 3.0 port thanks to its ‘inside-out’ optical tracking integrated into the headset itself.

    Of course, all titles built for Rift S work on the original Rift too, and it can also play a vast majority of VR games available through Steam. It’s not a horrible deal if you’re looking for a solid headset that can play pretty much every PC VR game out there, whether it be an Oculus exclusive like Asgard’s Wrath (2019), or Valve’s SteamVR-based Half-Life: Alyx (2020).

    What’s in the Box

    • Headset – A soft, comfortable headset with custom optics provide incredible visual fidelity and a wide field of view.
    • Touch controllers – Touch is a pair of tracked controllers that provide intuitive hand presence in VR—the feeling that your virtual hands are actually your own.
    • Two Sensors – Rift sensors track constellations of IR LEDs to translate your movement into VR whether you’re sitting down or standing up.
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  • Etee Kickstarter Launches for VR Controller with SteamVR Tracking

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    London-based hardware startup TG0 has launched a Kickstarter campaign for the Etee dev kit, a VR controller with integrated SteamVR Tracking. TG0 positions the controller’s button-less design and finger tracking as its main attractions.

    TG0 has launched the Etee Kickstarter campaign with the hopes of raising £45,900 (~$56,000) for its VR controller dev kit. The Etee dev kit will come in two versions, one with 3DOF tracking starting at £200 (~$265) for a pair and another with 6DOF SteamVR Tracking starting at £240 (~$315) for a pair. There’s a range of higher tiers available with more unique rewards, including a version with advanced haptics and another with a cool transparent shell.

    Based on a thesis that sounds… downright wrong to the ears of any VR gamer, TG0 says that “buttons are way out of date,” and touts the Etee controller’s button-less, trigger-less, and joystick-less design as its major selling point, alongside finger-sensing, which the company says detects proximity, touch, and pressure.

    This is in contrast to the rest of the VR industry which has steadily coalesced around VR controllers and games which make use of use of buttons, triggers, and joysticks for key gaming interactions. TG0 says that Etee supports gestures which can be used in place of buttons.

    While removing the reliance on binary controls sounds great on paper, in practice it has proven difficult in the VR gaming space because of the need for precise and highly reliable inputs.

    But VR gaming isn’t the only use-case the company is touting for the Etee controllers. As a dev kit, they could of course be used for any application where motion input is useful. Indeed, VR content that doesn’t demand the binary precision of hardcore game experiences—like training, art, therapy, social, remote control, and more—could definitely leverage Etee as a more intuitive means of input than a VR controller covered in unfamiliar buttons, triggers, and sticks. We’ve made a similar point about Oculus Quest’s experimental hand-tracking feature (which of course also lacks buttons, triggers, and sticks).

    Though the controllers are a dev kit at this stage, thanks to integration with the SteamVR Input system, the Etee controllers should be technically compatible with SteamVR games out of the box, though we’d expect the need to experiment with custom bindings for many games to reach a point where things are truly playable with the controllers given the need to remap buttons and other controls to Etee’s unique inputs.

    TG0 says developers can expect battery life up to 6 hours of continuous use and 14 hours of standby, and that the 3DOF version of the controller weighs 75 grams and the SteamVR Tracking version weighs 120 grams.

    The Etee Kickstarter campaign runs until May 11th and the company expects the first ‘Early Bird’ controllers will begin shipping in December 2020.

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    Valve, Microsoft, and HP are working on a ‘next generation’ SteamVR headset

    Valve, Microsoft, and HP are collaborating to build a ‘”next generation” SteamVR headset, called HP Reverb G2.

    The current HP Reverb is the company’s second PC VR headset, with high resolution LCD panels and a focus on comfort. It’s $599. Its first was a cheaper model back in 2017, not significantly modified from Microsoft’s reference design. HP hasn’t released any details or specifications on the future headset yet.

    In the videos the words “the next generation” and “no compromises” appear. This seemingly hints at HP Reverb G2 being the first headset in a new generation of Windows MR (Microsoft’s PC VR platform that all HP VR headsets have used so far).

    Windows MR headsets are already compatible with SteamVR through Microsoft’s own driver, available on Steam. So why is Valve involved in this collaboration?

    Microsoft worked with Valve to make the first-generation WMR headsets work with SteamVR. While the company tried to make its Windows Store the place for VR apps, it seems to have now shifted to endorsing Steam, even putting its own apps on Valve’s store.

    Brightening the headset from the video appears to show nearfield off-ear speakers, very similar to what the Valve Index has. This should enable high quality, accurately positioned audio in VR.

    The image also shows what looks like two tracking cameras on the front. There may be extra cameras on the sides to allow for wide tracking volume, like on the design Samsung submitted to the Chinese patent office in January. If Samsung’s design becomes a product, it could be another entry in WMR’s new generation alongside Reverb G2.

    This announcement hits just as Valve released its “flagship” VR game, Half-Life: Alyx, the first full entry in the series in over a decade. It’s designed to give a lot of VR fans exactly what they’ve been asking for; a full-length VR shooter with the same kind of production values you’d expect from a traditional video game release.

    Valve knows that the majority of Alyx players won’t be using Index, both due to inventory issues and its $1,000. With the Reverb G2, the company may at very least be endorsing, or potentially even working on, a more accessible affordable alternative. Even if it doesn’t take on Facebook’s Oculus Rift S directly at $400, it could offer a middle ground for PC gamers looking for a balance of quality and price.

    We’ll bring you more information about this headset as soon as we have it.

    This story originally appeared on Copyright 2020

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    Diorama-style AR Detective Game 'Glimt' Arrives on Magic Leap 1, Trailer Here – Road to VR

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    Resolution Games, the studio behind Acron: Attack of the Squirrels (2019) and Angry Birds VR: Isle of Pigs (2019), today launched their latest game on Magic Leap 1. Called Glimt: The Vanishing at the Grand Starlight Hotel, the detective game arrives today on Magic Leap World for free.

    Glimt is Resolution Games third AR game and was created as part of Magic Leap’s Independent Creator Program.

    Resolution calls it “a captivating detective game filled with mystery, psychic powers, magic and, of course, intrigue.”

    Talking to Magic Leap, Resolution Games producer Johan Donwill describes it as a “whodunit-detective game that has the player using a combination of their sleuthing skills, psychic abilities and visualization tools to discover the catalyst behind sudden disappearances at the Grand Starlight Hotel.”

    If you own a Magic Leap 1, you can download it now for free on Magic Leap World.  Check out the trailer below:

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    Watch The Entire Half-Life: Alyx Story Like A Movie

    Earlier this week, Valve’s flagship VR title, Half-Life: Alyx released worldwide. Those who own VR headsets will no doubt want to jump in, and play the game. But what if you don’t own a headset or don’t feel like playing the game in full?

    Half-Life: Alyx is split into chapters. While each chapter varies in length, most of them can be completed by an experienced player in about 20 minutes – the length of a short episode of TV. So to to help Half-Life fans who don’t own a VR headset or those who simply want to watch the story unfold without playing, we’ve compiled all of the game into videos below.

    This footage was recorded on the Valve Index with no commentary and played in story mode, for the most cinematic experience possible. Story mode allowed our editor Jamie Feltham to move through the game as smoothly as possible, with a focus on showing as much of the world and as many details as possible to viewers.

    The first embed below is a playlist that will play each chapter one after the other like a giant movie, coming in at a whopping 4 hours and 20 minutes.

    The videos following that are each chapter embedded separately, like episodes of a TV show, allowing you to watch parts at a time or in small doses.

    Half-Life: Alyx – Full Game Movie, All Chapters – Playlist

    Chapter 1 – Entanglement

    Chapter 2 – The Quarantine Zone

    Chapter 3 – Is Or Will Be

    Chapter 4 – Superweapon

    Chapter 5 – The Northern Star

    Chapters 6 – Arms Race

    Chapter 7 – Jeff

    Chapter 8 – Captivity

    Chapter 9 – Revelations

    Chapter 10 – Breaking and Entering

    Chapter 11 – Point Extraction

    Want more explanation on the game’s ending and what it means for the Half-Life series and for VR? Check out Jamie’s piece on just that.

    If you’re looking for more Half-Life: Alyx content, be sure to check out our Half-Life: Alyx review or watch a video review on YouTube.

    What was your favourite part of Half-Life: Alyx? Let us know in the comments below.

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    HP Teases New Reverb G2 Headset Made in Collaboration with Valve – Road to VR

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    The Daily Roundup is our comprehensive coverage of the VR industry wrapped up into one daily email, delivered directly to your inbox. 

    HP today announced it is building a new VR headset, called Reverb G2, in collaboration with Valve and Microsoft.

    There’s very little to go on, as the only thing available right now is a single teaser video. Here it is, in all its ambiguous glory:

    HP also left us with this statement, which may give us at least one clue as to what we’re seeing here:

    “Through this collaboration, Valve, Microsoft and HP are bringing a more immersive, comfortable and compatible VR experience,” an HP spokesperson told Road to VR. 

    Healthy speculation: by the looks of it, the Reverb G2 may make use of Microsoft’s Windows MR optical inside-out tracking, which is available on a host of Windows MR headsets dating back to the first generation of devices in 2017, including the original HP Reverb.

    Launched just last summer and aimed at enterprise users, the HP Reverb was an impressive piece of kit despite the compromises on its generally tepid Windows tracking quality and aging WMR controllers. It includes 2,160 × 2,160 per-display resolution, which is a big step up over the next highest resolution headsets in the same class—the Valve Index, showcasing a resolution of 1,440 × 1,600 per display, and HTC Vive Pro’s dual 1,440 × 1,600 AMOLEDs, making the OG Reverb an impressively pixel-dense headset.

    The “more compatible” part of the statement however might just point to the inclusion of SteamVR tracking as a secondary standard, embedded within the headset’s exterior. Windows MR headsets are already compatible with SteamVR by default, and their controllers have a standard input layout, so making it “more compatible” from a software perspective seems like a moot point.

    Here’s a better look, brightened for clarity.

    If it includes SteamVR tracking, where are the dimples then? Although HTC Vive and more recently Vive Cosmos Elite contain characteristically dimpled faceplates for SteamVR tracking, Valve’s Index has them invisibly embedded, so there’s no telling what lurks underneath that front portion of the headset.

    Another bit of speculation: the headset’s integrated audio looks strikingly similar to Valve Index’s, which might suggest an off-ear headphone design. Should that be the case, it’s not out of the realm of possibility that they’ve also borrowed some of Valve’s optics as well.

    What definitely isn’t clear is whether Reverb G2 will come with the aging Windows MR controllers, or whether that reveal will come later with a prospective Windows MR/SteamVR tracking combo. We’ll have our eyes peeled for more info on Reverb G2, which symbolizes Valve’s first headset collab outside of the original HTC Vive from 2016.

    Is HP pushing out another enterprise headset, or heading HTC off at the pass with an impressively speced headset which could potentially trump the Vive Cosmos’ modularity? We’ll be keeping our eyes peeled in the coming weeks for more info on Reverb G2, so make sure to check back soon.

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    HTC holds virtual media event, sends coronavirus balloons into crowd for selfies

    HTC’s just-concluded Virtual Vive Ecosystem Conference represented a step forward for the virtual events industry, serving as the first fully VR replacement for a major industry event previously held in the physical world. But instead of escaping from the global coronavirus pandemic, attendees found themselves getting even closer to the disease than expected, thanks to a bizarre early segment in the nearly four-hour event.

    Rather than holding the Vive Ecosystem Conference in its prior Shenzhen, China venue, the virtual conference was built inside Engage, a collaborative VR application that works with Vive, Oculus, Valve, and Windows Mixed Reality VR headsets. Presenters and a somewhat sparse audience were represented by individual 3D avatars, appearing in an outdoor amphitheater with concrete bench seating.

    Following 15 minutes of sober but calming speeches by chairperson Cher Wang and CEO Yves Maitre, HTC’s China president Alvin Graylin took the stage for a more glib presentation. After chiding rival Magic Leap for failing to deliver the flying whales it had touted in early AR promotional videos — something that didn’t quite work as expected at HTC’s event, either — Graylin opted to demonstrate the power of VR events in a highly unusual way. After discussing the impact of the coronavirus on HTC’s staff, he released virtual coronavirus particles into the audience, then asked attendees to pose for a “quick selfie” as the particles floated around them.

    “These are pictures that you guys have probably seen way too many of,” Graylin said, as images of masked people and viruses appeared behind him on a large screen, “and you probably hope you never see them again. But what if you could see them in a different way?”

    At that point, balloon-like 3D models of coronavirus particles appeared behind Graylin, and began moving into the crowd. “But don’t worry, guys,” he said. “These viruses aren’t going to hurt you, because we’ve prepared. All of you guys have been now issued special protective gear.” As he spoke, each member of the audience was covered in a protective outfit, and the virus particles came closer, hovering directly in front of attendees. While the event video shows a wide-angle shot of the crowd, you can probably imagine what that experience might have been like from a viewer’s first-person perspective.

    “So this is a very interesting type of experience that we can have because of platforms like this,” Graylin said. “And this is actually going to be how the future of conferences are going to be done.”

    If the prospect of having virtual presenters shock attendees with random virus releases wasn’t unsettling enough, Graylin went further, asking the audience to take a photo to memorialize the moment. “So why don’t we do a little fun thing? Let’s do a quick selfie with your protective gear and these viruses right now.”

    Even by the standards of past technology keynotes, which commonly have odd moments, HTC’s glib treatment of the coronavirus outbreak was particularly tone deaf. Although China appears to be on the mend after thousands of COVID-19 deaths, users elsewhere in the world continue to shelter in place as job losses and other socioeconomic disruptions reach historic levels.

    On a positive note, there’s no question that virtual events will take on much greater importance in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, and that the modest crowd seen at HTC’s event will grow as users become more comfortable with this hardware and software. Moreover, it appears that the Engage software performed as it was supposed to, enabling multiple participants to experience the mass gathering from different locations while giving presenters new tools to capture viewers’ attention.

    Let’s just hope that future presenters are a little more conscious of their audiences. Even if the digital event software and hardware work perfectly, content that makes participants feel uncomfortable will lead people to abandon virtual events just as quickly as they have with real ones over the past two months.

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    GamesBeat Decides: PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X specs spectacular

    Sony and Microsoft have both revealed the tech specs for their upcoming next-gen consoles. On this week’s episode of the GamesBeat Decides podcast, editors Jeff Grubb and Mike Minotti discuss what is under the hood of the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X.

    Also in the news, Nintendo held an Indie World Showcase and The NPD Group revealed its latest monthly report. Join us, won’t you?

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    • Find past episodes here

    In addition to the news, the GamesBeat Decides crew also goes in depth on Animal Crossing: New Horizons. Nintendo’s social-life simulator is launching this week, and Jeff gives his review thoughts on this episode.

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    Oculus Quest System Update to Make Multitasking Easier, Experimental Features Coming Soon – Road to VR

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    In place of GDC this year, which was postponed due to the coronavirus, Facebook is announcing some of its news via the decidedly more sterile environment of the Oculus blog, starting today and going until Thursday, March 19th. Today, the company unveiled its next major update to the Oculus Quest system experience.

    Facebook says in a blog post that its next Quest update will make VR “more flexible, social, and easy to use than ever before,” touting a redesigned Universal Menu, new immersive overlays, and multi-window support for 2D apps. The updates are slated to launch as Experimental Features on Quest later this month.

    The redesigned universal menu is supposed to organize information more clearly, something Facebook says will let you navigate to commonly-used system apps like Explore, Store, Browser, and TV with more ease.

    Settings such as brightness and volume are also included here, which all seems like a nice quality of life tweak. Much like a mobile OS, the universal menu redesign will bring recently and frequently used apps to the forefront.

    To boot, the new immersive overlays make it so you don’t need to return to Home, as you will be able to bring the Universal Menu up while in-game. Tools such as friend requests, casting, and livestreaming is also supposed to be easier and quicker to find while you’re in a VR app.

    Facebook says the new overlays will first be available in WebXR apps launched from Oculus Browser, and will later come to “more apps on the Oculus Platform as developers add support.”

    Something Quest users have been waiting for: multiple window support for Oculus Browser. A new control box is said to let you open, close, and rearrange windows. Support for more 2D apps like Chats and Store is coming at a later date.

    Outside of the experimental user-focused updates, Facebook is also about to make it easier for developers to manage and create DLC and in-app purchases for their games. Facebook says the update, which is also slated to arrive sometime this month, will make it this ‘add-on content’ more searchable and purchasable directly from the application page for consumers.

    The company also revealed a few other tidbits of info, including the news that OpenXR is coming to Quest developers soon, and that over 20 Quest games have already broken $1 million is revenue.

    Facebook has plenty more up its sleeves, so check back with us tomorrow for the latest in Oculus reveals.

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