Second life has been around for a few years but only now has google got round to creating an equivalent, 'lively'. Lets hope it lives up to its ambitious name.
I've had a go myself at creating a room and trying to add furniture and and create a person though sadly experienced a few technical problems. All i managed to end up with is a basic shell I could zoom in and out of. Though I have faith these problems will be ironed out eventually. It is no suprise therefore that the program is available for free at the moment.
So assuming this program does get up and running properly and people actually overcome the frustrations of trying to work out how to use it, what does this mean for online social interaction. IT seems to be a step up from conventional social networking sites as you can personalise your own character, your own music that plays in your presence and your own room complete with decor. So yet another way that we can exercise our right as a postmodern consumer to be playful with our roles in society.
People can invite people to visit their room, via google mail of course (yes you guessed it you need a gmail account to set this up) and you can also go find other rooms to join. Some of them already created by users actually look quite appealing if you allow yourself to postpone disbelief and induldge in the fantasy of you actually being in a futuristic sushi bar or lazing by the pool on a roof top terrace.
If people have time to go beyond being a citizen designer and turn their attention to interacting with other users the program can be quite clever, enabling users to chat using an instant messaging service and have their characters talk also through speach bubbles to create a more cartoonish feel. It combines social networking and computer game conventions that will be interesting to observe over the next few months to see what type of interactions prevail. Whether this will be a space for intellectual discussions or an extention of 'pub talk'.
It seems like an ideal platform for brands to extend their presence more physically online and for consumers to interact with their image, personality and products, they can almost create an authentic user experience with the brand online that couldn't be done before. I hope to see brands take the iniative to get involved in this new medium as I think it could open up many opportunities for brand awareness and engagement.
There are tv screens to input into rooms from the 'shop' and I'm sure I saw one room had youtube. Could this be the next generation for online tv? could we next be watching our favourite shows in our virtual living rooms online? Nowadays any wacky ideas seem possible!