Tuesday, September 16, 2008

What Google says about Lively

I'm trying a live blog today, during the Austin GDC session that Google is talking about Lively.

Kevin Hanna, Creative Director, Google Lively

Start with a technical difficulty--the microphones are buzzing loudly. Kinda appropriate, I think.

Day 1 at Google: 20%--Lively was a 20% project. Wanted it to bridge the gap between Picasso, YouTube, Facebook, MySpace, etc.

Why the web? Everything is its own stand alone thing, but hopefully they work together. Wanted to provide a space that schools and universities could build their own worlds.

Shows an overview demo reel. Cool themed rooms, with a bunch of avatars standing around in them. Still allow for furries. I'm really fascinated by allowing Furry avatars. No Goreans?

12 base set characters at launch. lots and lots of customization options. Showing more screenshots of avatars standing around. Yep, that's about all you can do in Lively...

Lively avatars are fully embeddable in any html webpage. That's kinda cool, haven't tried that yet. Still, what's the point of my avatar standing around on a 2D website? My mouse works just fine.

Interactive Google gadgets discussion. Evidently he just announced something about interactive Google gadgets, but it was so underwhelming I missed it.

Authorized Google developers can build customized content for Lively. Anyone can get certified. Evidently all you can do is sign up.

WHY? The moderator asked. And the answer is...not an answer. They didn't think about it? They don't have a strategy? Wow, I would have never guessed. "An enhancement to the web experience." I think that may be overstating.

He does say that he doesn't think that 2D web content is going away. Well, that's finally something I can buy. He also doesn't think there will be a total 3D web experience. Thinks there will be much more 3D integration, 2D working with 3D content.

Usability, and target audience question. He says they are still in Beta stage? Really? He says the audience are more hardcore gamers now. Really? Hmmm. But he says that it was designed to target the general population.

Lowering the barrier to entry? Get rid of bugs, simple, minimal log in process. I just tried to log in from my Mac. Oh, wait. I can't use Lively from my Mac? Well, that's a barrier to entry.

User generated content question. He says they are opening up Lively api. And they are going to allow for user-generated content. They are looking for users to start developing plug ins and applications. I'm guessing that they are looking at Facebook and figuring out how to move in the same direction.

Google is not interested in virtual dollars. Well, I bet they are interested in actual dollars. So how are they going to monetize this? And they are allowing for user to user transactions. A la Second Life? Recognize a need for an economy model.

So, how are things going? Finally, the question. So, they exceeded their goals (user downloads) and emphasize its still in Beta. I don't believe in Betas anymore if its open to the public.

What role will Google play in the online world space? His answers are funny. The same role they've been playing?

Oh, good, time for audience Q & A!

Timeline to go from 3D chat room to having manifested across the web? Timeline for opening api for Google gadgets is soon. Opening up code is longer term.

Plan for supporting Lively on mobile devices? He doesn't know.

Plug in for Chrome? He mentions that it doesn't even work on Macs yet. Right. Very soon in the Beta, it will work across multiple platforms, including Chrome.

Talking about the crazy amount of pre-production time. They used a lot of outside vendors. Overseas vendors. Will be allowing user-generated content to be integrated in the space.

Another question on monetization. General philosophy that they aren't interested in microtransaction money.

Voice integration? "That sounds great"

Are you going to approve content for creative direction? No, the good will rise to the top.

Appropriate content and standards? Similar to YouTube.

Spectrum shift from Google generated content to user generated? He thinks Google will stay involved, but will shift to users.

Acceptance outside the US? Anecdotal evidence is that about half of users are outside the US.

Going forward, what are the biggest challenges? He thinks the core experience is there. Refining some things, based on user needs. He thinks it will be a slow build.

Available for small business? You can be certified as a developer, builder. Doesn't sound like there are virtual storefronts yet...

Best argument why this won't be like Google video, where a passionate start up won't do a better job? He thinks it looks damn good. And he thinks its a really good question.

Why is the visual style a competitive edge? Great functionality with poor quality graphics are not typically adopted.

When you were creating the creative direction, who was the target audience? The social app users. He doesn't think people want to replicate themselves.

Incorporation of storylines? Yes they want a story, but they want the stories to be yours.

Branded content in Lively? he doesn't know--Gap jeans in Lively? Personally, he thinks its stupid. LOL. Finally, a really good response. Almost at the end of the session, and he finally says something real.

In general, where do you think we'll see online worlds go? They want to be a tool where users create their own content. So, everyone will be building their own virtual worlds, developing 3D spaces. University and school adoptions.

When is actual launch? No answer...

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