A portal, according to Wikipedia, is a magical or technological doorway that connects two distant locations separated by spacetime. Places that a portal will link to include a different spot in the same universe, a parallel world, the past or the future, and other planes of existence.
The Portals are tangible interfaces for reaching into a real but virtual parallel world (aka Google Street View).
Portals also enable people to collaborate with others in a way formerly impossible in either the real world or virtual world alone.
From the mixed reality spectrum, Portals combines bits and pieces from virtual worlds, shared workspaces, video chat, and the real world in order to create a hybrid experience.
One of the key features of Portals is the ability to bypass the hurdle of the screen by being able to (seemingly) interact with the interface inside the screen. While touch screens and gesture-based interactions already allow for a more embodied interaction than the traditional keyboard or mouse, in both cases the screen still acts like a glass wall between the user and the interface.
Portals, on the other hand, is able to serve as a potential alternative to what Bret Victor calls “Pictures Under Glass” technology. This is a common vision for interfaces which forego the richness of tactile feedback in favor of high resolution visual representations. Portals is capable of leveraging both the tactile and visual senses in order to create a more authentic simulation of interaction.
“The visible world is no longer a reality and the unseen world is no longer a dream.”-Arthur Symons
Standard video chat allows for a completely reality-based conversational experience, but it’s limited in that each person is confined to their own little window of reality. It also completely ignores the potential for a more fantastical experience. While visually “real,” the experience of video conferencing distinctly lacks the ability to visually overlap in a shared third space and play together collaboratively. Alternative solutions such as sharing a desktop screen or using a collaborative white boarding application still leaves the human element stuck on each side of the side of a screen. Portals challenge our standard manifestations of co-presence.