NYC-Dublin real-time video portal reopens with some fixes to prevent inappropriate behavior

When putting a video portal in a public park in the middle of New York City, some inappropriate behavior will likely occur. The Portal, the vision of Lithuanian artist and entrepreneur Benediktas Gylys, was designed to bring people together and let them share common experiences.

After it opened earlier this month, the vast majority of people who went to the portal on both sides of the Atlantic waved to each other, brought their kids and pets and did friendly human things. But there were a handful who behaved badly, including an OnlyFans model who flashed the portal and another man who mooned it.

Some folks on the Dublin side held up swastikas and pictures of the Twin Towers on fire, and officials on both sides decided it would be better to take a break. The main problem involved people who put up cameras directly to the Portal camera, blocking the people visiting the installation from seeing what was on the other side.

The organizers took a number of steps, including building a non-permanent fence around the Portal to discourage people from going directly up to it. In addition, they now have one or two people guiding the experience to try and encourage more friendly interactions.

Also for now, instead of running 24 hours as Gylys intended, it will run from 6 a.m. to 4 p.m. in New York City and 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. in Dublin.

Nicolas Klaus, head of partnerships at, says that they were surprised by the behavior because they hadn’t experienced that at a previous Portal installation between Lithuania and Poland. New Yorkers and Dubliners brought a different vibe.

“There was some behavior that was not ideal. You saw this with someone flashing a picture of 9/11, which we don't know what actually the intention was of that person, but it was just irritating,” Klaus told TechCrunch. What’s more, he said it violated the artistic spirit of the exhibit. “The artistic intent is to provide a window where people can connect. If a single person is blocking the entire screen by just putting their hand on the Portal camera, that’s not what the project should be about.”

Crowds around the NYC Portal look at people in Dublin. The Portal reopened this week. Photo Credit: Flatiron NoMad Partnership
Crowds around the NYC Portal look at people in Dublin. The Portal reopened this week after a brief hiatus. Photo Credit: Flatiron NoMad Partnership

One way to fix that was to use software to prevent people from blocking the camera. Video Window, the company behind the software that runs the Portal, came up with a machine learning solution while the Portal was on hiatus to discourage people from doing that.

Video Window CEO Daryl Hutchings said the software is designed to be on a timer, so it wasn’t a problem to set hours of operation, but coming up with a way to discourage people from holding their phones up to the Portal camera was more challenging.

“If a phone or someone’s hand blocks the camera view for over a certain amount of time, then we're going to basically blur the local camera feed immediately, and then that means that the far side will see a blurred image. And then on the local display, we're also blurring that as well,” Hutchings said. It also displays a sign that the offending behavior is prohibited on the side where it’s happening.

The intent is to simply show whoever is doing it that they aren’t supposed to block the camera. The creators are experimenting with the amount of time to blur it, but since the Portal reopened Sunday, there hasn’t been an incident to trigger the blurring. This suggests that the fencing and human guides are helping encourage more positive interactions as the designers hoped and intended.