Google gets into 3D virtual world with Lively

9 Jul 2008

Google has entered the Second Life (SL) space with a new service called Lively, which lets you chat online in the form of a customised avatar complete with animated actions and large virtual chat rooms to explore. But why now and why bother at all?

Like SL, you must download a Lively application (which only works on Windows XP or Vista for now). Then using your Google username you can log in and begin creating your virtual personality and start chatting.

The main advantage this has over Second Life, from what I can see, is you can actually grab code and embed the chat room on your own site. So instead of being trapped in a silo like SL, you can integrate this virtual world and spread its presence across the net.

Having downloaded Lively and chosen a cat in cowboy gear (don’t ask) from one of the default avatars, I browsed around the chat rooms. Because users can create their own rooms, quite a few with the word ‘sex’ in the title have cropped up already.

I headed for the official Lively room and it looked to be populated with bored teenagers. Depressing.

I cannot see any practical use for this – while Second Life is all about the modifications where people can buy land, build houses and set up their own virtual businesses from which a profit can be turned, Lively is an animated chat room.

“I don’t get it,” said one of the avatars I chatted to. “Why am I even here?,” asked another.

Niniane Wang, engineering manager on theofficial Google blog, said there are some cool add-ons based on feedback from college students: “We added support for playing YouTube videos in virtual TVs and showing photos in virtual picture frames inside our rooms. Better yet, the gadgets you have in your Lively rooms can also run on your desktop.”

So while Google Lively does look to be a little more accessible than SL, I think it is strictly one for the teens and college students.

By Marie Boran