Google’s “Lively” Virtual Chatroom

Yesterday Google released a 3D virtual chatroom application called Lively that can be embedded into a webpage. A bunch of folks from the Second Life community headed over to the Linden Lab chatroom to check it out and I grabbed about a minute of machinima to give a sense of the visuals.

At the moment it isn’t Mac compatible and I couldn’t get it to work in my Firefox 3 browser at all. On IE7, it said “Joining…” for about 5 minutes before my avatar appeared, but eventually I was able to see and communicate with the others in the room.

My first impression is that this is very similar to IMVU, it’s a 3D chatroom with some options to “decorate” the space, but doesn’t appear to support any user generated content or even import Sketch-Up objects, which is surprising since that’s a Google product. The range of avatar choices is very limited and I didn’t see options for user customization there, either, though I assume that will change since all the research points to avatar customization as a key to engagement, immersion, and “stickiness” for virtual worlds.

On the plus side, these lightweight web-based applications only highlight the growth of 3D spaces online and it’s a nice transition point for people to get their feet wet with virtual spaces without having to download, install, and run something as resource intensive as Second Life. It was also easy to embed a YouTube video on a player in the room for a shared media experience, and decorating the space with the given inventory seemed fairly simple.

I can’t see any 3D virtual space impacting education if there aren’t options for instructors and students to create their own content, but I’d guess that will be an upcoming feature when they tie Lively to the Sketch Up object repository.

Certainly an interesting development, and I’m surprised Google was able to keep this under wraps so tightly! The rumor mills were going back in September of last year, but otherwise not a hint until it was released – impressive!

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  1. I gave Lively a brief try last night, I liked it was a much more lightweight application than SL. No need for an Orientation Island just to get a mild clue of what and how. I did not notice the ability to embed Youtube into a room, so I’ll try that next. But I did try using the embed code for my room, and that seemed to work pretty well. As it works now, Lively would be nice way to introduce the very uninitiated to virtual worlds.

    And I share in your surprise about how secret this was. Until I started reading Tweets about Lively yesterday, I had not heard about it at all.

  2. I’m a little sanguine about the prospects for user-generated content (and hence some aspects of education) as many teachers will not (i) have the RL expertise to model, (ii) be bothered to go through the necessary vetting procedure to become a content provider (if Virtual World News is right). I don’t think Google has teachers (or SecondLifers for that matter) as one of its target markets in the short term (whereas LL obviously do); on the other hand, students who spend time on Fb probably are in its sights. Ultimately, it will come down to how Google intends to monetize the product.