Step Inside This Shipping Container to Connect with Strangers Around the World

By Andrew Daniels

Shipping containers are having a moment: There are fancy shipping container houses, swanky shipping container pools, and soon, high-tech shipping container hotel suitesthat are of course related to Elon Musk in some way. Of all the random objects to strangely revere, we seem to have settled on big cargo boxes, so we might as well keep on rolling with it.

The latest example is Portal, a futuristic art project/communications experiment that takes place inside several gold-painted shipping containers around the world. It’s the brainchild of Shared Studios, an art, design and technology collective that aims to “build an Internet you can walk through” with its various projects, according to its site. So far, the results look promising.

Walk into any of the 30 international portals—located in cities ranging from Los Angeles and Kabul, Afghanistan to Kigali, Rwanda, with a Times Square location opening next week—and you’ll instantly be connected with curious people inside the other portals at that given moment. See it in action here. (Yes, it’s sort of like the Floo Network from Harry Potter.)

Each portal is outfitted with cameras, speakers, and a video feed projected onto the wall, so you can easily chat with foreigners about the weather, cinema, cuisine, politics, and the all-time greatest hits in Tom Pety’s catalog. Portal’s Zoom teleconferencing technology is presumably clearer than Skype’s or FaceTime’s, so make sure you wear something nice and check your teeth. After all, strangers are watching (and judging) you from 7,000 miles away.