Metaverse – virtual space for real science
How science can benefit from the metaverse and what pitfalls await us along the way
Professor from the University of Notre Dame, Diego Gomez-Zara, insists on the need to analyze the potential of the metaverse to improve the efficiency of scientific research. At the same time, attention is focused on the importance of caution and a strategic approach to minimize possible negative consequences.
In 2021 Facebook brought a lot of attention to the term “metaverse” by renaming himself Meta and announcing plans to create “a network of interconnected digital spaces to do things that are not possible in the physical world.” However, Gomez-Zara sees the metaverse as a tool to improve science.
In an article published in Nature Human Behavior, Gomez-Zara argues that science must take advantage of the possibilities of the metaverse while averting the potential dangers associated with working in virtual reality.
Virtual environments, real benefits
Gomez-Zara and co-authors define the metaverse as a virtual space in which users can interact in a three-dimensional environment and take actions that affect the world outside of it.
Researchers identify four main ways in which the metaverse can benefit science. First, it can remove barriers and make science more accessible. Secondly, virtual reality can improve learning processes by allowing, for example, young scientists to perform emergency procedures in a safe environment.
Gomez-Zara also explores the social side of science, pointing out that virtual environments can help teams work more efficiently than videoconferencing. Finally, he notes that the metaverse can be used to create entirely new experimental environments.
At the same time, Gomez-Zara emphasizes that to get the full benefits of the metaverse, the pitfalls associated with it must be avoided. Barriers to virtual reality still exist: equipment, despite falling prices, still requires significant investment.
The larger issue is related to the problem of ownership of the metaverse. Currently, some tech companies control the metaverse, but Gomez-Zara notes that there have been calls for investment in building an open, public metaverse.
He is sure that the metaverse is not just entertainment. The scientific community is required to explore this new space in order to plan for risks and recognize all opportunities.