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The 'Portals' Encouraging Real Conversations About Policing and Race

Two Yale professors are using immersive technology to enable connections between communities of color in low-income neighborhoods across four U.S. cities.
A portral parked in Newark, New Jersey
A portral parked in Newark, New JerseyCourtesy of Shared Studios

Yale law student Amar Bakshi founded the Portals Project in 2014 to connect people who would otherwise never meet. The portals—gold-painted shipping containers whose interiors are lined with grey carpet—allow people in cities around the world, from Brooklyn to Mexico City to Kabul, to communicate via videoconferencing. It’s not just a hyped version of Skype: The screen fills much of a wall, allowing each participant to view the other from head to toe, making it feel like they’re in the same room, though they’re thousands of miles away.

Portals are placed in museums, refugee camps, public parks—wherever people gather. Participants may sign up in advance or simply drop in for a conversation. Pairings vary; a portal in Washington, D.C., might connect with Kigali, Rwanda for two hours in the morning, and El Progreso, Honduras, for two hours in the afternoon.