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Spatial's Jacob Loewenstein speaks with Axios' Ina Fried, within Spatial's VR app. Screenshot: Axios

While two-dimensional video chat has become the standard for remote office meetings, a number of startups are working to bring that experience to VR.

Why it matters: VR has some advantages, including its immersiveness and the feeling of connection. However, as with other uses of VR, there are drawbacks, including challenges related to multitasking, or even taking notes.

Driving the news:

  • Spaces VR, which builds destination VR attractions at theme parks, has pivoted and these days is focused on letting people join Zoom meetings from their VR headsets.
  • Spatial, meanwhile, has its own VR environment that people can join from several types of VR and AR headsets. Today, Spatial is announcing the environment can also be reached from a standard PC or phone browser, albeit with a more limited set of controls. Spatial is also making its premium features, which it sells to businesses, free for the next several months so people can use it to ride out the pandemic.

My thought bubble: I recently tested out Spatial, and being able to meet via avatar was a nice change of pace from the usual square grid of a Zoom call. But other aspects of work remain tricky in VR, especially for a journalist trying to take notes during a meeting.

  • Spatial has a cool voice dictation feature, but unfortunately everyone could hear me dictating, so it really wouldn't work for journalism, or even a worker wanting to take good meeting notes.

Yes, but: VR-based collaboration could yet have its moment in the next couple of years. Prior to the pandemic, there wasn't a compelling enough case, since people that needed to work closely together had better options.

  • "COVID has thrown all this on its head," Spatial business chief Jacob Loewenstein said in an interview (conducted in VR). "No more travel. No more working in the same office."

Watch: You can watch a video of my full interview with Loewenstein, and see some additional highlights from my time in Spatial. Both are on YouTube — no headset required.

Go deeper:

Go deeper

Police officers' immunity from lawsuits is getting a fresh look

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Nearly a year after the death of George Floyd, advocates of changes in police practices are launching new moves to limit or eliminate legal liability protections for officers accused of excessive force.

Why it matters: Revising or eliminating qualified immunity — the shield police officers have now — could force officers accused of excessive force to personally face civil penalties in addition to their departments. But such a change could intensify a nationwide police officer shortage, critics say. 

The U.S. coronavirus vaccines aren't all the same

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

The U.S. now has three COVID-19 vaccines, and public health officials are quick — and careful — to say there’s no bad option. But their effectiveness, manufacturing and distribution vary.

Why it matters: Any of the authorized vaccines are much better than no vaccine, especially for people at high risk of severe coronavirus infections. But their differences may fuel perceptions of inequity, and raise legitimate questions about the best way to use each one.

Erica Pandey, author of @Work
2 hours ago - Economy & Business

The future of workplace benefits

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

The pandemic exposed how workplaces across America are inhospitable to parents. But it could also spur companies to make changes.

The big picture: Well over a million parents have left their jobs due to child care responsibilities during the pandemic. Now, companies — large and small — are attempting to reimagine workplace benefits and add flexibility to help those parents come back.