Sunday, July 13, 2008

Google’s Lively, virtual realities and the adieu of Randy Pausch

These days we are dealing with a strange mix of feelings, where the birth of a new space of virtual reality is happening along side the time when one of the masters of virtual reality, Randy Pausch, is leaving this material world (let’s hope that not so soon).

Google has presented Lively, its 3D virtual environment platform, which has not made a good impression on the users. It seems that the user experience for most users is, at best, very bad (I have been waiting for about an hour for my avatar to join the room I created, but I am still waiting), but I don’t think that is a relevant issue for now. Those glitches will be very likely get sorted soon (we are talking about Google here) and the fact that the “virtual room” actually resides in your browser should allow for almost infinite scalability, which due to its enclosed system Second Life could hardly provide. We then go to the terms of service, and here again (I could be accused of having a bias towards the Mountain View company), Google’s ones seem to do what is say on the tin. I have written before about the problems with the Second Life terms of service and the contradictions that they have, which cannot be solved with expression of goodwill from the members of Linden Labs (who without any doubt have the best of the wills). Lively’s terms of service quite clearly establish that the users “own” everything (excepting the software, obviously) and in that way avoiding the inconsistency of SL’s terms of service where the user owns the IP rights (copyright) but Linden Labs the data, which is where the creations are embedded. The fact that in Liverly the user needs to grant a quite broad license is understandable to allow the actual showing, displaying and copying in other users’ computers what the user does. On the other hand, this type of clear cut data ownership would not create the problems of data portability that other virtual reality and social networking sites seem to create/have, which may, paradoxically, give a sense of security to users making them stay. And that is good for business…not only Google’s business but businesses in general: we have only seen the Beta version of Lively and it could be a bit early to prove it, but Lively could be the answer to the failed/non-existent business models of social networks and virtual realities. A 3D room where people get together to talk, chat and share what they want to share by posting things on the walls (their pictures, videos, links etc), which also allows to post on the wall adds, video, links, the Google search engine and anything that you may want to share, show or sale…I don’t like betting (so I never do), but I would do it for Lively…so, this could be the model that take virtual reality 3D from the labs to real main stream use and commerce.

And all happening when the news is that a couple of weeks ago Randy Pausch has suggested that he may stop chemotherapy because the trade-off may not be worth…it could be argue that we wouldn’t have this much to talk about virtual reality without the dedication and the talent of Randy Pausch, and his now famous last lecture confirms that we will always owe to him more than we would be able to express here or there…

Here you have his lecture, and you must take the little more than an hour to watch is worth...

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