Yesterday, Google let loose their newest beta product: Lively. Lively is a 3D virtual world social networking site similar in some ways to Second Life. This was first rumored to be in the works last September (see some of my thoughts on the rumor). With Lively you have to install a plugin and a separate 3D application (currently only on Windows – and it supports only IE and Firefox). It doesn’t surprise me the application is not based on Google Earth. Lively is intended to allow you to enter fantasy worlds. Google Earth is intended to mirror the real world. Lively has a more cartoon-like feel which is intended to be fun and unreal – and Lively is intended to allow you to interact socially with other people over the Internet. Here’s their introductory video:
On the surface, the biggest difference compared to Second Life is that instead of a single connected virtual world, you instead get a multitude of small “rooms” which anyone can set up themselves. You can create your own avatars, and dress them up with different outfits. You can also make your own rooms and add objects to them. You have controls for moving your avatar around and lots of animated actions (complete with sounds) letting you “clap”, “bow”, “sit”, “dance”, “kick”, “hug”, “kiss”, etc. And, of course you can chat with other people in the room. This is a new application, so they haven’t yet introduced APIs and scripts so you can create your own clothing and animations. But, you can expect that to happen as it evolves.
I do see a need to map locations for rooms to help people understand the locality of people who might be in the room. Some of the rooms have context of location, and then there’s the issue of people speaking different languages in a room. In fact, Keir Clark at GoogleMapsMania has already produced a Google Maps mashup called Lively Map with placemarks of a few rooms. With Google Maps you can actually open a Lively room inside the placemark windows. Unfortunately, the Lively embed feature requires an <iframe> which means you can’t open one in a Google Earth placemark. [UPDATE: Actually, it's probably a good thing as you shouldn't keep Google Earth open at the same time you're running Lively since they both require lots of memory (both OS and Graphics memory).] I’ve created a couple of Google Earth placemarks where you can at least see the locations of Lively rooms and enter them.
If you are into 3D virtual worlds, you should definitely give Lively a try. You have to have a Google account to set it up and use it. But, you can change your “name” in the worlds to whatever you want. I was surprised to find someone had already taken “Gearthblog” when I went to use it. Identity theft already? There’s also a lot of kissing, kicking and hitting going on. But, hey, that’s nothing new.
I wonder if Lively would support SketchUp files?