Frequently Asked Questions

What are Portals?

Portals are gold shipping containers linked with immersive audio-visual technology. When you enter one, you come face-to-face with someone in another Portal. You converse live (with translators when needed), full-body, making eye contact as if in the same room. Many participants have described feeling as though they were “breathing the same air.”

How do Portals work?

The core Portals experience is a 20-minute encounter with a stranger abroad where you are free to talk about whatever you want. Often, the conversation prompt is something like: “What would make today a good day for you.” But Portals are also used for classes, collaborations, performances and play.

What is the goal of Portals?

We want to connect people who would not otherwise likely speak in conversation. We rarely use the Internet to meet strangers far different from ourselves, and for no particular purpose other than encountering and coming to know another human being. Such encounters have value for innumerable reasons — they make us human; they are beautiful; we discover ourselves through them; we break down stereotypes of the other; we engage a fundamental curiosity; and endlessly more. Portals are designed for encounters between strangers. But they can also be used to create other kinds of powerful encounters. Portals is a global public art project, and artists and thinkers can use Portals to collaborate across borders. Musicians have jammed together - across the world and through the Portals. Great minds have talked problems through Portals. We are open to ideas for how they can be used to connect the world.

How are Portals distinct?

Unlike a video-conference software on a computer, Portals offer full-body experiences in which you make eye contact and move around the space as if in the same room. Participants have remarked on the great impact of feeling as if you have just walked into the same room as someone across the world. Portals brings people together beyond the one-on-one conversations. It reaches out to artists and thinkers to collaborate with each other, and the other people in your own city who come to the Portal may be strangers to you as well as those across the world. It fosters a sense of global, creative, and connected communities.

Why gold?

Portals makes the mundane architecture of our daily lives — shipping containers, the Internet, encountering a stranger — special.The deep gold shade and soft sheen invokes the commercial and the sacred. It is semi-reflective. As you walk by it, you see yourself faintly.

What is the broader vision of Portals?

We want to create an interconnected network of Portals in public spaces around the world. We envision them across all communities. We want them to be a permanent infrastructural reality of the new century. We want Portals to be new global community, where people can meet each other, talk, learn, debate, collaborate, and play.

How many Portals are there and where are they?

Check out our sites section for the latest.

How do you join the Portals network?

Email us at to get the conversation started.

If I have a connection to another Portal city, can I talk to someone there?

We are interested if you have a connection to another Portal city (perhaps you left your home country at a young age, or your family lives there. Perhaps your significant other lives in a Portal city.) Let us know if you have an idea for a special encounter through a Portal, like a reunion or sharing big news with family abroad.

Can we collaborate?

Tell us your idea - we love collaborations! E-mail us at

How do you fund Portals?

We are able to cover our costs through our partner institutions, which include cities, universities, museums, companies and others. Portals are free and open to the public for at least 20 hours per week. On off hours, we rent the Portal for special events to cover costs. We also rent the Portal as a whole to institutions.

What technology do you use?

We have developed our own software and hardware combination to create the Portals effect, and link the network together.

Can my institution rent a Portal? Can I host an event?

Yes, Portals are available to be rented by private and public institutions, as well as for special events. We can provide fully-staffed and connected Portals for these rentals and events. Contact for more information.

What is Shared_Studios?

The collective is focused on carving wormholes through the world and vitalizing public spaces. Portals is the flagship project of Shared_Studios. It is currently also working on Channels (large bi-directional video walls), Phonos (underground, interconnected audio-spheres), and numerous shared environments - from playgrounds to kitchens - where people in one location feel as though they are cooking, playing, and engaging with people far away. The studio creates these public interventions and also builds the backend network architecture to coordinate and synchronize them, so that a New York park can connect with Bulawayo one week and Havana the next. When people experience Portals, they often wonder at how life looks beyond the walls of other person’s Portal who they just met. Portals spark questions, and there are many more to ponder as Shared_Studios continues to create wormholes across the world, with curiosity and connection.