June 13, 2021

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This Stargate-esque Portal Connects You With People 376 Miles Away in Real-Time

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A portal in front of the Vilnius train station in Lithuania.
Photo: Vilnius Tech LinkMenų fabrikas (Vilnius)

It goes without saying that the pandemic has been hard on travel and human connection. While things are looking up, we are far from back to normal yet. That’s one of the reasons behind the Stargate-esque portals unveiled by two cities in Lithuania and Poland, which are hoping to give their residents access to these experiences again through technology and a touch of science fiction.

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The cities of Vilnius, Lithuania and Lublin, Poland—which are 376 miles (606 kilometers) away from each other—unveiled their futuristic portals this week. As explained by the city of Vilnius in a news announcement, the portals resemble large circular doors. Unlike doors, however, they have large screens and cameras, allowing a real-time feed of whoever is in front of the portal to be transmitted between the two cities via the internet.

In Vilnius, the portal lives next to the Vilnius train station. Meanwhile, in Lublin, it resides in the city’s central square. Built by engineers from the LinkMenų fabrikas center at Vilnius Gediminas Technical University, the project has been five years in the making.

Benediktas Gylys, president of the Benediktas Gylys Foundation and the “initiator” of the portal idea, said in the news release that the portals were a way to create bridges between people. Gylys pointed out that many of the potentially deadly challenges humanity is facing, such as polarization and climate change, were caused by a lack of understanding of others and the world at large.

“[I]f we look closely, it’s not a lack of brilliant scientists, activists, leaders, knowledge or technology causing these challenges. It’s tribalism, a lack of empathy and a narrow perception of the world, which is often limited to our national borders,” Gylys said. “That’s why we’ve decided to bring the PORTAL idea to life—it’s a bridge that unifies and an invitation to rise above prejudices and disagreements that belong to the past. It’s an invitation to rise above the us and them illusion.”

Although there hasn’t been an explicit reference to Stargate in the announcements by those involved, or at least I didn’t find one among the announcements, there was a nod to sci-fi. The team at Vilnius Tech apparently chose the circle, which they called “a well-known and recognized sci-fi symbol,” for this interactive bridge. I imagine making a direct reference to Stargate could make the project, which did not reveal its budget, a lot more costly.

In case you’ve never seen Stargate, which spans three movies and more than a dozen seasons, you should know that one of its most important elements are the portals of the same name. (The portals in Vilnius and Lublin are not exact copies, of course). These portals serve as gates to travel between planets.

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The portals in Vilnius and Lublin do not have such transportation powers (unfortunately), but they’re still pretty cool. They also tackle a problem we all should think about more: the sense of connection to others around the world. We all share this planet, and we should work together to protect it and progress as a society in a responsible and caring way. That’s impossible if we don’t first know more about each other.

In the long-term, the organizers behind the portals say they plan to put portals in other European cities and around the world. Bridges between Vilnius and Reykjavik, Iceland and London, England are next on the list, according to the project’s website.

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