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Google Powered Serious Games: Lively - The New Virtual World

Via: Daily News/MoneyGoogle ventures into virtual reality with 'Lively'

Los Angeles Times/Business - Google decides to try a 'virtual experience'

Unveiled last Tuesday, Google Lively is the new virtual world created by the world's largest search engine.

Google Lively is billed as a "chat experience" using avatars. Google says, "You're about to embark on a chat experience in which you can communicate and express yourself using avatars in your very own space. Choose an avatar and use it to make friends and chat. Create rooms, decorate them to your liking, and make sure to invite your friends over."

The service represents Google's answer to 5-year-old Second Life, where people deploy avatars to navigate through virtual reality. Google thinks Lively will encourage even more people to dive into alternate realities because it isn't tethered to one Web site like Second Life, and it doesn't cost anything to use.

After installing a small packet of software, a user can enter Lively from other Web sites, like social networking sites and Blogs.

The Lively application already works on Facebook, one of the Web's hottest hangouts, and Google is working on a version suitable for an even larger online social network, News Corp.'s MySpace.

"We know people already spend a lot of time online socializing, so we just want to try to make it more enjoyable," said Niniane Wang, a Google engineering manager who oversaw Lively's creation over the past year.

Although Google is best known for the search engine that generates most of its profits, the company has introduced other services that are widely used without making much, if any, money. Google's peripheral products include its 3-D "Earth" software, Picasa for sharing photos and programs for word processing, calendars and spreadsheets.

Google has no plans to sell advertising in Lively, Wang said.

But the service could still indirectly help the company if it encourages people to remain online longer. Google's management reasons that more frequent Web surfing ultimately will lead to more moneymaking clicks on the ads it shows alongside its search results and millions of other Web sites.

Lively's users will be able to sculpt an avatar that can be male, female or even a different species. An avatar can assume a new identity, change clothes or convey emotions with a few clicks of the mouse.

The service also enables users to create different digital dimensions to roam, from a coffeehouse to an exotic island. The settings can be decorated with a wide variety of furniture, including large-screen televisions that can be set up to play different clips from, Google's video-sharing service.

Lively users can then invite their friends and family into their virtual realities, where they can chat, hug, cry, laugh and interact as if they were characters in a video game.

As a precaution, Google is requiring Lively's users to be at least 13 years old — a constraint that hasn't been enough to prevent young children from running into trouble on other social spots on the Web.

Google spent several months testing Lively among a group of Arizona State University students before opening the service to the public through its "Labs" section — a technology sandbox set up for the company's experimental products.

Google’s Lively Differentiated Attributes

The newest entry to the crowded virtual world space, Google's Lively is likely to introduce many people to an industry that's been growing for nearly a decade, analysts said. In the last few years, virtual worlds have become more popular with both computer users and investors: From October 2006 to October 2007 alone, about $1 billion was invested in virtual worlds, according to trade group Virtual Worlds Management.

"With a player like Google jumping into this, you're going to see a lot more people understand this space and pay attention to it," said Chris Sherman, the trade group's executive director.

This is partly because Lively is easier to use than many popular virtual worlds.

It doesn't require users to download lots of software, just a plug-in for their Web browser.

Members also don't have to visit a specific website to log in -- they can instead enter their virtual rooms from their own blogs or websites such as Facebook.

Choosing an avatar is simple, as is changing that avatar's appearance and personal space.

Lively also incorporates other Google services. Users can stream YouTube videos into their virtual living rooms and post their Picasa pictures on their walls.

They can invite friends to their rooms through instant messenger or e-mail.
"Our intent is to be part of the users' everyday experience," said Niniane Wang, an engineering manager at Google.

"We designed it to be easy to use."

Worlds can be embedded into web pages, although only Windows users on IE or Firefox can view them. Mac and Linux users will have to wait for now.

Michael Gartenberg, a research director with Jupiter Research, expects that Lively "is certainly going to give other virtual worlds a run for their money" because it is free. Plus, it's distributed by an Internet powerhouse.

Get Started

Choose a Google Lively Room

From the Room List, click the title of the room you'd like to visit first.
1. Use the tabs at the top of the page to sort rooms by most popular, most visitors, or newest.
2. Once you've added friends or created a room, the My Rooms and Friends' Rooms tabs will also be handy.

Choose your Google Lively Avatar

1. Click My Avatar on the right sidebar.
2. Click the avatar you like and choose Select Avatar (your avatar changes instantly).
3. Once you've chosen the one you want, click the X to hide the menu.

Change your Google Lively Avatar's Clothing

To change your outfit, check out the styles available in the wardrobe picker.
1. Click My Wardrobe on the right sidebar to open your wardrobe.
2. Browse or search the options in your wardrobe inventory and select items to wear. When you double-click an item, it'll appear on your avatar instantly. You don't have to close the window to find out if you like the look.

If you don't like how something looks on your avatar, go back to your wardrobe, left-click on the item, and choose Remove Item.

If you want more wardrobe options, add new stuff to your inventory by o quickly change your entire outfit, click my avatar and choose I'm Feeling Lucky. You'll see the new duds on your avatar instantly.

Create your own Google Lively Room

1. Click new room and choose Create New Room to start the process.
2. Look over each tab and choose what you want your room to look like, the permissions you want to grant visitors, and whether you'd like to play music in your room.