Duke-UNC portal makes debut
Portal to remain open for Carolina game
With Wednesday’s basketball game drawing nearer, many students’ attitude toward the neighboring school is more competitive than collaborative, but for those seeking partnership, a new opportunity is now available in the Bryan Center.
Friday afternoon, a video portal between Duke and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill was officially unveiled, allowing students to see and converse with each other between the campuses. From the outside, each portal appears as a large oval television screen housed in a white cube. Inside the cube, the communication is enabled by a computer running Apple’s FaceTime software. The portal is the brainchild of UNC sophomore Christopher Batchelder, with Duke sophomore Zac Elder managing Duke’s half of the project.
“We’re just capitalizing on the opportunity that comes with having two great universities so close together,” Batchelder said. “It’s a really cool way to foster collaboration and interactivity between the two.”
Duke’s portal is located on the first floor of the Bryan Center, between the box office and the Louise Jones Brown Art Gallery—UNC’s can be found in the Carolina Union. The two schools split the budget equally, Elder, a sports associate editor for The Chronicle, said.
Design inspiration came from the video game Portal, in which players move through oval shaped portals to get to different locations, Batchelder said.
“It’s a pretty basic premise, not any hard technological stuff, but it has a lot of exciting possibilities,” Elder said.
The portal was developed as a purely social enterprise—motivated by the pair of high school friends’ frequent visits to one another—but it has the potential to be used academically as well, Batchelder said.
“It would be really cool to have some academic components,” he said. “You could have classes use it to talk to each other, or professors could talk about research—anything.”
The concept of the portal, however, has the potential to extend beyond the Triangle area.
“It’s exciting because there’s so much we can do with it—we could potentially create an intercollegiate network of portals all across America,” said freshman Nick Camarda, who attended high school with Elder and Batchelder and helped with the development of the portal.
The portal’s unveiling on Friday was relatively understated, as an inaugural conversation with President Richard Brodhead and UNC Chancellor Holden Thorp was canceled due to scheduling conflicts. Even without the allure of a launch event, though, the portal still managed to attract the attention of passing students, prompting several to wave or talk to the Carolina students onscreen. Duke students have responded positively to the unveiling of the portal.
“It’s a really great thing, something I never would have thought of,” said sophomore Tre’Ellis Scott. “It just goes to show—this rivalry runs deep, but we’re all still students, all still in North Carolina, all trying to find the next big thing.”
The portal is set to function during the Bryan Center’s operating hours and automatically turn off at night—meaning that it will be available during Wednesday’s game.