Courtesy of Cornell University

The portals that will be installed on Arts Quad in fall will allow students to connect with people around the world without having to leave Ithaca.

March 9, 2018

Students Explore Sneak Peek of Global Portal Coming to Campus in August

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Cornell students got to study abroad without actually leaving Ithaca this Wednesday, thanks to a Shared_Studios pop-up portal that allowed them to connect with people all around the world.

The pop-up that was installed was a preview of the immersive portal that will be installed for three months outside of Olin Library next semester.

The portals use immersive audio-visual technology to present an experience akin to standing in front of someone thousands of miles away. This technique allows people around the world to interact with each other, according to Jake Levin, chief operating officer of Shared_Studios.

Portal visitors enter a large, box-like room with black walls. A floor-to-ceiling projected display simulates being face-to-face with people from more than 20 countries around the world.

One of the major aims of the portal project is to provide an international experience to as many students at Cornell as possible, according to Melina Draper, teaching support specialist for internationalizing the curriculum at the Center for Teaching Innovation.

“Not everybody can afford to study abroad,” Draper told The Sun. “This seems like an exciting way to bring the world into Cornell.”

According to Levin, there are over 50 portals in various locations around the world. The first portal connected New York City and Tehran in 2014 during the nuclear negotiations.

On Wednesday, the portal was on “meet-a-stranger” mode, Levin said. “There’s a whole different experience when you’re prompted with something very specific than if you walk in and kind of awkwardly meet someone in another location.”

According to Levin, in addition to allowing students on campus to tour around the globe, the strength of the program also comes from introducing Cornell’s resources to the world.

During the trial of the portal, one student from Herat, Afghanistan, asked questions about international financial aid, which were answered directly by Laura Spitz J.S.D. ’05, vice provost for international affairs and associate dean of the law school.

Wednesday’s demonstration was a temporary portal — inflatable and made of gold-colored foil. The more long-term installment will take place in a gold shipping container to be situated on the Arts Quad next fall, according to George Beasley, librarian at the Carl A. Kroch Library.