Zip Across the World in Seconds in a Shipping Container

Are we finally living in the future? Disgruntled Tweets bemoaning society’s arrival in the age of the selfie and hybrid, glitter-covered, viral food-trends rather than hover-cars and holiday homes on Mars seem to be flung into cyberspace every day. This month, an art project tapped into these dreams and, combining them with our more mundane, everyday, industrial reality, unveiled a creation which seems straight out of a sci-fi blockbuster.

Amor Bakshi and Michelle Moghtader are the minds behind the project. Their inspiration came from their experiences as international journalists, interviewing people from all over the world. Having been in a profession which imparts so deep an understanding of the immense power of communication, they wanted to be able to harness this power and recreate the countless eye-opening conversations they have had with locals from across the globe.

Teaming up with SharedStudios, they produced the Portal project. The concept: you step into a pretty standard-looking shipping container (although gold paint may give it a special ethereal twist) and are ‘teleported’ to a probably unfamiliar land, allowing users to, for example, take a selfie with strangers in Gaza without their feet leaving Australian soil.

These shimmering shipping container sprang up in cities all over the world, starting in New York and Tehran in 2014, and now numbering 23 in Australia, Africa, Asia, the Middle East, and the Americas. Now, users really get the opportunity to cross political, linguistic, and geographical boundaries and marvel at the wonders of human communication.

So how does it actually work? The technology behind the futuristic project is actually relatively standard. The metal boxes are kitted out with cameras, microphones, speakers, and a projected which beams live video images. These are then used to allow strangers to communicate through video chat software. As with much magic, the key is simply keeping the technique out of sight, and out of mind. Moghtader said that by keeping the technology invisible, people get the thrill of feeling like they have stepped into a film and across the world.

This fun, futuristic, and innovative project offers another reminder of the awesome power of communications technology and the effective human connections which it facilitates. We don’t need genuine teleportation to realise that we are living in the future, in a world where we have the chance to learn about myriad cultures, people, and places not through the authority of textbooks or diplomatic relations, but through direct interactions. It is this communication which truly has the power to revolutionise our world.