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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.

3 hours ago - Politics & Policy

McConnell drops filibuster demand, paving way for power-sharing deal

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (R) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell attend a joint session of Congress. Photo: Olivier Douliery/AFP via Getty Images

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has abandoned his demand that Democrats state, in writing, that they would not abandon the legislative filibuster.

Between the lines: McConnell was never going to agree to a 50-50 power sharing deal without putting up a fight over keeping the 60-vote threshold. But the minority leader ultimately caved after it became clear that delaying the organizing resolution was no longer feasible.

5 hours ago - Technology

Scoop: Google won't donate to members of Congress who voted against election results

Sen. Ted Cruz led the group of Republicans who opposed certifying the results. Photo: Stefani Reynolds/Pool/AFP via Getty Images

Google will not make contributions from its political action committee this cycle to any member of Congress who voted against certifying the results of the presidential election, following the deadly Capitol riot.

Why it matters: Several major businesses paused or pulled political donations following the events of Jan. 6, when pro-Trump rioters, riled up by former President Trump, stormed the Capitol on the day it was to certify the election results.