Organised by Procam International, Chlorophyll Innovation Lab and Shared Studios, the Mumbai leg of a global exercise, aimed at bringing people across cultures closer, will take place on January 12-15 in Mumbai.
Portals exist all over the world, right from New York City to refugee sites in Berlin and Iraq to a tech incubator in Gaza, Palestine. They have been used by Barrack Obama, Ban Ki Moon, Morgan Spurlock, Ewan McGreggor, John Kerry and 20,000 other individuals. It is for the first time that a portal is being set up in Mumbai, India.
'The Mumbai Portal' is a real life portal that will connect Mumbai to 20 other cities in the world. It is essentially a shipping container painted gold and equipped with proprietary immersive audiovisual technology. When an individual enters a portal, they see a person in another portal live and full-body, as if in the same room. Many earlier participants have described feeling as though they were "breathing the same air".
The portal has been jointly created by Chlorophyll Innovation Lab, a specialised unit started by Chlorophyll, an end-to-end brand consultancy firm, and Shared_Studios, a multi-disciplinary art, design and technology collective based in New York. Shared_Studios is the creator of 'portals' globally and holds the IP to the technology and the concept. The Mumbai Portal is supported by The Better India (TheBetterIndia.com).
Speaking about the initiative, Chitresh Sinha, CEO, Chlorophyll Innovation Lab, says, "We will be doing test runs on January 11, 2017. From January 12 to 15, 'The Mumbai Portal' will go live, and remain open for Mumbaikars/general public. There will be a mix of programmed interactions and 'Open Hours' for public to come and experience the portal. By 'Open Hour' we mean that 'The Mumbai Portal' will get connected to a specific city in the world and people from Mumbai can interact with the people on the other side of the world through live video chat. During the other hours programmed interactions will be organised, wherein a specific person, during a particular time at The Mumbai Portal, will share his/her stories with another part of the world."
At present 20 such portals exist all around the world. But there are plans to increase this number to 25 by next month. In India, currently, the portal will be launched outside Oberoi Trident, at Marine Drive, in Mumbai. "Going forward, we can expect many more such portals where brands can participate; governments can sponsor them and educational institutions too, can have them. So, the plan is to install them at as many locations as possible," explains Sinha.
While new technologies allow us to connect across boundaries as never before, we too, often use them to insulate ourselves in our own communities. By conversing through a portal, participants step out of their comfort zones, talk to someone completely unrelated to their individual lives and discover a multitude of amazing things happening all over the world.
"If we look at technology and how it has evolved, we are more connected than ever before - you have WhatsApp, Facebook, etc. And yet, we still interact with only a fixed group of people. So, we were thinking of a technology that can actually connect people from various parts of the world. This portal allows you to do exactly that. The aim of 'The Mumbai Portal' is to specifically showcase people from Mumbai (and India) who have pushed the boundaries of the human spirit. They will get to share their inspirational stories with the world and will also meet other people as inspiring as them. So, the idea of technology connecting the whole world will really happen," explains Sinha.
Standard Chartered Mumbai Marathon (SCMM), considered as the largest sporting event in Asia, has agreed to become the official sponsor of 'The Mumbai Portal'. "Chlorophyll and Mumbai Marathon have worked together for a very long time. The Mumbai Marathon is considered as one of the biggest sporting/charity event, and yet it is much more than that. It brings together 3,00,000 people on one day, all while showcasing the best of the human spirit. That is exactly what the Mumbai Portal is about - showcasing the spirit of SCMM and the real heroes of India to the world!" informs Sinha.
There will be five-six hours of interactions on each day. For example, Natarajan Chandrasekaran from TCS will be interacting with the founders of Sky Geeks in Gaza, Palestine (referred to as the world's toughest entrepreneurs by Forbes), John Abraham will interact with athletes from a refugee camp in Erbil who are re-building their lives, Major DP Singh - India's first blade runner - will talk to a Syrian refugee hero based in Berlin, Roshni Rai - empowering Gorkhas and supporting Gorkha runners - will interact with Lewis Lee - a leader working on community and restorative justice for the African American fathers, Gladson Peter - a one-man band who plays 45 instruments - will promote the message of no-smoking in a unique manner to smokers across the globe via music, and children from Mumbai will talk to kids from Brooklyn and Kenya.
While the platform is currently viewed only for building new ties and starting conversations, the portal may soon act as a catalyst in serving B2B purposes too. "Right now we haven't looked at such an angle or providing consultancy services but there's always a possibility, such as Natarajan Chandrasekaran interacting with the founders of Sky Geeks. So, it's going to be a game changer, and we are certainly looking for brand engagement at the human level. Brands can use the portal in multiple ways. For example, if there are Indians working in New York or Chicago, and who haven't been able to come back to India for past 5-6 years, this could be the perfect platform for a brand-sponsored reunion," says Sinha.