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October 31, 2017

Cornell Libraries to Launch Portals for International Communication

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Cornell students will soon have the opportunity to converse with people from all over the world through a temporary audio-visual “portal” to be installed on the Arts Quad in fall 2018.

Portals such as this, made from shipping containers painted gold, use “immersive audio-visual technology” to put people thousands of miles away in direct contact, said Carl A. Kroch University Librarian Gerald Beasley.

“We see it as a great opportunity to learn more about the world,” Beasley told the Sun.

Similar portals have been used by over 35,000 people across the globe, including former President Barack Obama and former UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, according to a Shared_Studios press release.

As opposed to traditional methods of video conferencing, these whole-bodied experiences allow participants to feel as though they are “breathing the same air,” according to the press release.

Portals are currently located in over 20 countries, in places as diverse as an internally displaced persons camp in Iraq to an art collective in Mexico City, Beasley said.

This portal represents a joint effort between the library and the Office of the Vice Provost for International Affairs, according to Beasley. They are hoping for a “global-at-home” effect, virtually bringing people with vastly differing backgrounds to Ithaca.

“Some of these learning opportunities may be challenging,” Beasley said. However, he feels they are important for Cornell students to experience.

The portal program was initiated after librarians from the University saw a demonstration at a conference, Beasley said. They knew then that it would be a great addition to Cornell’s academic experience.

“Professors are invited to bring small classes to use the portal in session, and people will be able to arrange to meet other people elsewhere in the world,” Beasley said. This will allow professors to “bring the world to Cornell” within their curriculum.

“The library is very excited,” said Beasley. The portal will be installed near Olin Library in the fall of 2018, and will be open to the public outside of instructional hours.