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Google Lively - Instant Messaging Virtual World

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Google Lively
Screen Capture of Google Lively

The Bottom Line

Update: Google announced that Lively was going to be discontinued at the end of 2008.

Lively is an interesting idea, but right now it is just a chat tool for bored youth. Lively needs true custom content creation tools and better chat room moderation to make it useful for mainstream use.

The 3D world is simple but attractive, and being able to embed rooms on Web pages or Facebook profiles is very clever. However, the interface is still a stumbling block for anyone learning to use the tool.

Pros

  • 3D objects and avatars are visually appealing
  • Allows you to embed rooms on your own website
  • Uses your existing Google Account to log in
  • Available as Facebook application

Cons

  • Complicated and confusing interface
  • Limited choices for creating content
  • Must download a plug-in
  • Only available for Windows

Description

  • Lively runs on Windows and requires you to download and install a Web browser plug-in.
  • You can choose one of ten avatars to represent yourself and customize the clothing and hairstyle.
  • Lively you to create your own rooms for chatting and drag around furniture from a library of objects.
  • You may embed rooms on websites and blog posts or on your Facebook profile.
  • Some objects in Lively can stream YouTube videos or display Picasa images.
  • Lively automatically detects some phrases as you type and animates your avatar to match.
  • You can ignore annoying avatars by right clicking on them and selecting ignore.

Guide Review - Google Lively - Instant Messaging Virtual World

Google Lively is a new 3D chat tool available at www.lively.com or as a Facebook application. The tool allows you to create or visit 3D virtual chat rooms with an avatar you choose to represent yourself. The avatars and object choices are cartoonish rather that purely representational.

Anyone can build a public or private room from a set list of available shells. Similar to avatar customization, you can select objects from the Lively catalog and drag them around to position them in your room.

Lively lets you create a contact list, but it doesn't import data from other Google products. If you use Lively through Facebook, it does let you contact your Facebook friends. Ironically, ignoring an avatar also adds them as a contact.

As you type, your messages show up as cartoon talk bubbles above your avatar. Some phrases trigger automatic animations for your avatar. When you type "LOL" your avatar starts laughing out loud. In fact, all the gestures seem to have noise, some of them are pretty stupid, and you can't stop your avatar from launching into one of these contextual animation sequences.

You move your avatar by picking it up and dragging it with your mouse, which may be counter intuitive for gamers and confusing for new users. Right clicking on avatars and objects also gives you options to interact with them, including the very important ability to ignore them.

Interacting with other avatars includes hugging, kissing, or punching them. The idea is that it shows more emotions than standard text typing, but visually seeing your avatar punched and kissed by strangers feels creepier than getting annoying text chat messages.

The idea of Lively was to create a more expressive chat tool. However, Lively is an anonymous cartoon chat tool with an odd interface. Text chat tools aren't going away anytime soon.

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