Vilnius and Lublin Unveil a Futuristic “Bridge” Between Cities

A portal in front of the Vilnius train station in Lithuania.

A portal in front of the Vilnius train station in Lithuania.
Photo: Vilnius Tech LinkMen 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. Thats 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.

The cities of Vilnius, Lithuania and Lublin, Polandwhich are 376 miles (606 kilometers) away from each otherunveiled 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 citys central square. Built by engineers from the LinkMen 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, its not a lack of brilliant scientists, activists, leaders, knowledge or technology causing these challenges. Its tribalism, a lack of empathy and a narrow perception of the world, which is often limited to our national borders, Gylys said. Thats why weve decided to bring the PORTAL idea to lifeits a bridge that unifies and an invitation to rise above prejudices and disagreements that belong to the past. Its an invitation to rise above the us and them illusion.

Although there hasnt been an explicit reference to Stargate in the announcements by those involved, or at least I didnt 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 youve 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.

The portals in Vilnius and Lublin do not have such transportation powers (unfortunately), but theyre 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. Thats impossible if we dont 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 projects website.

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