Google Introduces Lively Virtual World

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?

About Frank Taylor

Frank Taylor started the Google Earth Blog in July, 2005 shortly after Google Earth was first released. He has worked with 3D computer graphics and VR for many years and was very impressed with this exciting product. Frank completed a 5.5 year circumnavigation of the earth by sailboat in June 2015 which you can read about at Tahina Expedition, and is a licensed pilot, backpacker, diver, and photographer.


  1. So it is a 3D Chatroom? Or do I miss anything?

  2. I noticed that it won’t let you pick a name that’s the same as an existing google account that’s not the one you are using to log in. So if you have a gearthblog gmail account, but login with a different account, you cant use gearthblog as your name 🙂

  3. Thanks for the mention Frank.
    The Lively rooms do work inside the Google Earth browser plug-in. But you probably shouldn’t run both together for the same memory issue you mention with Google Earth.
    I agree that geo-tagging rooms on Google Maps could be useful, especially if rooms are connected to a real world location and also to allow people to find rooms in their language.
    I just did the map to see if it would work. I don’t intend to develop it. So if anyone is interested in the idea feel free to run with it.

  4. Second Life and IBM recently teleported an avatar from one virtual world to another, unifying virtual worlds. I wonder if the future mix of virtual worlds is the same as Google wants to do with Facebook and MySpace.

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