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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

Congress passes stopgap funding bill to avert shutdown

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

The Senate voted 69-28 to pass legislation Thursday night to fund the government until February 18.

Why it matters: The move staves off a government shutdown but lawmakers still have a busy month ahead: Congress needs to work out a deal to raise the debt ceiling in a few weeks and Democrats are trying to pass their behemoth social spending bill.

DiDi to delist from NYSE under Chinese govt pressure

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Chinese ride-hail giant DiDi said it will delist from the New York Stock Exchange, following a Chinese government crackdown on foreign listings.

Why it matters: This reflects how geopolitical tensions are bleeding into the capital markets.

Updated 2 hours ago - Health

Omicron cases confirmed in 5 U.S. states

A healthcare worker inserts a Covid-19 rapid test into a machine in Denver, Colorado. Photo: Daniel Brenner/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Hawaii became on Thursday the fifth state to confirm the newly discovered Omicron variant after New York announced five new cases earlier in the day.

The latest: In Hawaii, the variant was found in an unvaccinated O'ahu resident with moderate symptoms who had previously been infected with COVID-19, per a state health department statement. The variant has also been confirmed in California, Colorado and Minnesota.