Some technology companies and media have anointed the metaverse as the future of the internet. Advances in virtual reality devices and high-speed connections, combined with the acceptance of remote work during the COVID-19 pandemic, have brought considerable attention to the metaverse as more than a mere curiosity for gaming. Despite substantial investments and ambitiously optimistic pronouncements, the future of the metaverse remains uncertain: its definitions and boundaries alternate among dystopian visions, a mixture of technologies (for example, Web3 and blockchain) and entertainment playgrounds.
As a better-defined and more-coherent realization of the metaverse continues to evolve, scientists have already started bringing their laboratories to 3D virtual spaces, running experiments with virtual reality and augmenting knowledge by using immersive representations. We consider how scientists can flexibly and responsibly leverage the metaverse, prepare for its uncertain future and avoid some of its pitfalls.