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Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

Many have pointed out that, as hard as the pandemic is, it would have been much harder 10 or 15 years ago, without today's high-speed internet connections, multiple streaming services, and apps like Zoom, Slack and Google Classroom.

Yes, but: Another way to look at this is that in just a few years, the experience of sheltering in place might be way better, once augmented and virtual reality become mainstream.

Here's how a more mature VR environment could make our time apart more meaningful:

The virtual office could look a lot more like a traditional office, with face-to-face interactions using realistic avatars and facial expressions, as well as better group interactions.

Education is struggling mightily to meet the challenge of the moment. For many, especially younger students, a series of back-to-back Zoom meetings is not a reasonable replacement for the classroom.

  • A headset wouldn't solve everything, but it might be more compelling to learn about dinosaurs with a 3D roaring animation than a PowerPoint presentation. While VR has a lot of potential in this space, today's headsets aren't recommended for pre-teens and younger children. And like any technology, it will only work for school if all kids have access.
  • Presumably these hurdles could be overcome as the technology matures.

A sense of physical proximity to each other could be better replicated by more sophisticated VR than what’s currently on the market. One of the hardest parts of the pandemic is being physically distant from people we care about.

  • A clunky avatar, though, probably isn't much more compelling than a stable video chat.
  • Both the technology and the interfaces will have to make a lot of progress to make a meaningful difference.

Be smart: While the technology isn't ready to be a savior during this pandemic, its obvious future utility may help the industry figure out where to put its energies.

Between the lines: Many big players have long seen the promise of this space, but have also been measured in their investment, recognizing the technology wasn't yet ready for mass adoption.

  • That's why Microsoft's HoloLens remains largely in the hands of developers, for example, and probably why Apple has yet to introduce any of its long-rumored products.

Go deeper:

Go deeper

The COVID-19 learning cliff

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Perhaps the most jarring reality of the COVID-19 pandemic for families has been the sudden and dramatic disruption to all levels of education, which is expected to have deep social and economic repercussions for years — if not decades — to come.

Why it matters: As millions of students are about to start the school year virtually, at least in part, experts fear students may fall off an educational cliff — missing key academic milestones, falling behind grade level and in some cases dropping out of the educational system altogether.

Updated 7 hours ago - Sports

The potential GOAT of chess faces intriguing challenger

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The World Chess Championship between Norway's Magnus Carlsen and Russia's Ian Nepomniachtchi began on Friday, 1,094 days after Carlsen won his fourth consecutive title.

Why it matters: During the long, COVID-fueled layoff, chess entered a new era, and with the championship finally here, the age-old game is ready for its close-up.

Department of Interior proposes raising cost of drilling on public lands

A horizontal drilling rig and a pump jack sit on federal land in Lea County, New Mexico. Photo: Callaghan O'Hare/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Oil and gas companies should pay more to drill on federal lands and waters, the Department of the Interior argued in a report released Friday, saying that the current rates were "outdated."

Driving the news: The Department of Interior report said that the federal government's oil and gas leasing and permitting program "fails to provide a fair return to taxpayers, even before factoring in the resulting climate-related costs that must be borne by taxpayers."