PROXY 'Portal' To Create Conversations With Strangers Across The Globe

PROXY 'Portal' To Create Conversations With Strangers Across The Globe
By Nuala Sawyer - Published on August 19, 2015.

On September 1st a new shipping container will grace the PROXY complex in Hayes Valley—but this one won't contain ice cream, technical apparel, or coffee. The gold shipping container will act as a portal, using immersive audio-visual equipment to connect San Franciscans to fellow portal attendees in Cuba, Honduras, Afghanistan and Iran.

The portals are an international project launched by Shared Studios, an arts and technology collective whose mission is "carving wormholes in the world." 

The portals were launched in late 2014, and since then, locations have been set up in New York, New Haven and Washington D.C. The PROXY portal will be the first in San Francisco. 

The concept of the portals was developed by Amar Bakshi, the founder of Shared Studios. You can learn more about his inspiration for the project, and the reception it's received from participants, in the video below. 

To use the portal, interested participants book a 20-minute reservation through the Shared Studios site. Participants will be placed alone in the shipping container, connected to another individual through sound and video from Cuba, Honduras, Afghanistan or Iran. Sessions will not be recorded unless both parties consent. Each 20-minute session is free; translation is provided if needed. 

Due to the time difference, reservations for Honduras or Cuba are available from 11am-7pm PST, and reservations for Iran or Afghanistan can be booked between 7:30-10:30pm. In a release, Shared Studios says that participants have left the experience "weeping, giddy, and everything in between."

Setting up the portals is not cheap, and an Indiegogo campaign has been launched to collect $15,000 to fund the San Francisco location. The container itself costs $7,500, and the technology equipment to connect people across countries costs another $7,500. Thus far, $10,190 has been raised.

The perks of the campaign include postcards and photographs for small donations, an off-hours reservation for $500, or a custom portals event for $3,500. Shared Studios pitches the latter option as something an organization might want to "talk shop" with another group across the world. 

The portal at PROXY will launch on September 1st, and run through November 18th. For more information, visit the San Francisco portal site, and check out the Indiegogo campaign