Connection sustains us. Multiple scientific studies have concluded that surrounding yourself with a robust network of friends and family members is the key to a longer, healthier life. Researchers from Live Science reviewed nearly 150 different studies examining links between longevity and social relationships. The overwhelming majority of these studies reached the same conclusion: social connections help people thrive.

A recent report from took this concept a step further, offering advice on forging stronger interpersonal relationships. Author Andrew Griffiths recommends looking people in the eye and smiling, saying hello while smiling, and paying each person a sincere compliment. He goes on to comment, “I know that the more I look people in the eye and smile warmly, the more I say hello to complete strangers, the more I offer a sincere compliment and the more I simply try to make every interaction with another human being meaningful in some small way, the more my life becomes immeasurably happier. This, in turn, has a major impact on everything in my world.”

These are great suggestions for building connections in real life. However, what happens if your connection goals are a little loftier? What if you want to facilitate connection between an office worker walking through Manhattan’s Times Square, and a person who works at an office in Tokyo? What if you’re trying to help people in a refugee camp communicate with their family members in a different country? What if your travel budget for arranging these conversations was zero?

The folks at Shared_Studios™ came up with a solution. The founders sought to facilitate real-time conversations between people located in different places, whether participants were across town or across the globe from one another. Participants soon discovered what the Shared_Studios founders already knew: regardless of location or background or any other distinguishing factor, we humans are far more alike than most of us realize. Effective communication plays a vital role in bringing people to this conclusion.

Shared_Studios’ Portals project began as a public art initiative in 2014. The initial installation connected participants in New York City and Tehran during the nuclear negotiations that were taking place at that time. Shared_Studios’ founders weren’t sure what to expect from this experiment, although they anticipated that most people would spend about 10 minutes in the Portal space. Instead, they discovered people in both participating cities were spending an average of 45 minutes in the Portal, having incredibly moving experiences and conversations with individuals they would never otherwise meet. Clearly the founders were on to something.

As of early 2018, there are more than 20 permanent Portal sites installed around the world, with additional sites (both permanent and temporary) scheduled for the future. Portals are installed in a diverse array of spaces, from refugee camps to music venues to public parks. Regardless of the location or theme, human connection is the goal of this project.

While most Shared_Studios Portal locations are intended to be permanent or semi-permanent fixtures, the founders also created a portable, inflatable version that could be installed and dismantled anywhere in the world to accommodate opportunities with shorter setup times or in unique locales. A mobile Portal housed in a converted school bus is also planned. To accommodate these needs, any technology had to be lightweight, durable, and flexible enough to withstand multiple moves, reconfigurations, and heavy use.

To best support its mission, Shared_Studios selected Devio® as the superior audio solution, providing the most life-like audio experience, delivering clear audio whether Portal visitors were having a conversation or even collaborating on a musical performance. Devio was installed in the first 12 Portals throughout 2017. Simple connectivity was one of the primary reasons Shared_Studios selected Devio. Devio’s Beamtracking™ microphone offers a single cable connection, allowing for quick and easy installation in both portable and permanent Portals. While small and unobtrusive, Devio’s microphone is still capable of picking up the natural sound of participants’ voices on both ends of the session, creating the most lifelike interaction possible for people located hundreds or thousands of miles apart. Because the Portals come in multiple form factors, Devio’s flexibility makes it an ideal choice for a high-quality, affordable, and repeatable audio solution.

Participants report lasting positive impacts from their portal interactions. The Portals project bridges gaps between people—whether those gaps are geographical, cultural, or any number of other reasons. With a Devio solution in place, Shared_Studios’ founders, curators, and participants are free to focus on building human connections across the world. Portals are just the newest method of bringing people together. Devio’s straightforward connectivity and ease of setup allow Shared_Studios to continue establishing Portals in locations across the world, helping people to forge new connections that will change their lives forever.

Simple connections create audio visual bliss.