Monday, July 14, 2008

Lively by Google Seeks to Break New Ground

Eerily similar to Second Life, Google Labs has produced a virtual world in which avatars interact with user created content in three dimensions. Did I mention it is free to download and use? Lively by Google utilizes in browser software to allow webgoers to dive head first into virtual reality and interact with other avatars and their environment.

Google, in typical press release fashion, states they will not place ads of any kind in Lively. I have to wonder how long this will last – especially with marked success from similar products like Second Life, in which advertising is rampant. Implications for interactive adspace are huge. Take corporate self-promotion for example. I had a quick look at the popular rooms page on the Google Lively website and found the interactive agency Proximity Worldwide’s room.

Looks like a typical agency setting to me. Note the YouTube videos rolling on the wall and the Proximity logo covering the floor. Conversation in Lively comes easily: simply type your message into the box and hit enter to generate an easy to read chat bubble. Now if only I had someone else in the room who would answer me.

Other frustrations came quickly. The initial load time for the room is about 30 seconds – not a death sentence by any means – and subsequent lag ensues after the space is generated. My laptop is not wimpy by any means, but Lively seems to eat all my resources and then some.

Lively also provides simple ways to integrate your personal space with a MySpace, Facebook, or other social networking page. I am a fan of improved interactivity and “bringing the customer into your house”, but Lively needs to solve a few key problems regarding slow loading and jerky movement before this tool will be truly useful to the interactive advertising community.

My verdict: keep a close eye on Lively in the months to come, but don’t scramble to set up your own complex virtual labyrinth only to realize you are the only one populating it.

Key implications: look to Lively for enhanced customer service apps, live order taking, and embedded YouTube viral marketing in the near future. There may come a day when interactive agencies sell a Lively environment as part of the standard online presence package.

Nicholas Kinports (follow him on Twitter @ADMAVEN) has worked in the interactive technology world for over 15 years. He is the Digital Strategy Lead and founder of Chicago-based digital marketing firm lonelybrand, where he directs the creation and execution of complete digital communications solutions for a variety of industries.


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