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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

While offices remain closed and travel isn't an option, some companies are turning to virtual reality to bring employees together.

Why it matters: Let's face it: Slack sessions and Zoom happy hours can only go so far to promote company cohesion. VR can provide another outlet, even if the technology is still in its infancy.

What's happening: True to its name, the workforce of Remote, a startup that helps companies with HR, has been fully remote since its founding. But as the company grew from 8 to approximately 60 employees distributed around the world during the pandemic, its CEO Job van der Voort was forced to find innovative ways to keep his company together.

  • So van der Voort launched an initiative to provide all Remote employees with VR headsets to enable them to have formal meetings, conversations and even social events in a more immersive virtual space.
  • "At first it feels very silly to put on the headset," says van der Voort. "But eventually it helps you feel more present with someone when you're all together in VR space."

Details: Strivr, an immersive learning company, has seen an increase in demand for its VR training sessions during the pandemic, as executives can no longer travel to satellite offices.

  • "Virtual reality environments have great potential for expanding access to the best learning principles possible," says Michael Casale, the chief science officer at Strivr.
  • "When people can interact with the environment, they can freely explore decisions, instead of the lessons being forced on them."

Yes, but: Top-line VR headsets are still expensive, and not every employee will feel comfortable interacting with colleagues in virtual environments, let alone while planning an online "Grand Theft Auto IV" heist.

Go deeper

Ant Group gets new marching orders from regulators in China

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Uncertainty surrounding the future of China’s giant fintech company Ant Group cleared up on Monday after years of friction with its domestic regulators.

Driving the news: Ant is shedding its cool tech image and stepping into a new identity as a financial holding company — the result of forced changes by several banking and securities agencies in China.

Updated 2 hours ago - Axios Twin Cities

Police: Officer who shot Daunte Wright accidentally pulled gun instead of taser

The officer who fatally shot Daunte Wright, a 20-year-old Black man, outside Minneapolis Sunday appeared to have inadvertently pulled out her gun instead of a taser, police said.

Driving the news: "This appears to me, from what I viewed in the officer's reaction and distress immediately after, that this was an accidental discharge that resulted in the tragic death of Mr. Wright," Brooklyn Center Police Chief Tim Gannon told reporters Monday.

3 hours ago - World

Scoop: U.S. and Israel to hold strategic Iran talks on Tuesday

Jake Sullivan. Photo: Jim Lo Scalzo/EPA/Bloomberg via Getty

Top national security officials from the U.S. and Israel will convene virtually on Tuesday for a second round of strategic talks on Iran, three Israeli officials tell me.

Why it matters: The talks come two days after an explosion at an Iranian nuclear facility that experts consider a likely act of Israeli sabotage, and one day before the U.S. resumes indirect nuclear talks in Vienna over a return to the 2015 nuclear deal — a prospect that has raised anxiety levels in Jerusalem.