Google Launches Lively Virtual Rooms

    July 9, 2008

A few days ago, Marissa Mayer wrote a blog post about Google’s homepage, and an obsession with simplicity and clean design became almost painfully clear.  Now, her company’s launching a sort of fragmented virtual world in which users can choose cats as avatars and hug each other underneath dinosaur skeletons.

"Lively," as the experience is called, may not fall in line with Google’s traditional values, but the service does live up to its name.  After downloading it for free to a computer running either Windows XP or Vista, would-be users are encouraged to create 3D representations of themselves and start embedding areas within websites.

Google Lively
 A Unique Lively Environment

As an entry on the Official Google Blog makes clear, "If you enter a Lively room embedded on your favorite blog or website, you can immediately get a sense of the room creator’s interests, just by looking at the furniture and environment they chose.  You can also express your own personality by customizing your avatar’s look, showing people who you are without having to say a word.  Of course, you can chat with each other, and you can also interact through animated actions."

It’s even possible to display YouTube videos on virtual TVs and real photos within virtual picture frames.  What you can’t do is freely move from setting to setting; Lively isn’t a cohesive, Second Life competitor in that sense.  But there’s no reason it couldn’t become one, and early signs relating to My World (as Lively was called during a stage of testing) led us to believe that would be the end result.

Another interesting hint: Google’s using the word "rooms," from which there’s all sorts of ways to expand, to describe the current crop of virtual environments.