Windows “Live-ly”? Will there be a 3D story?

In case you missed it, Google released a new toy into beta today, called Lively.  In a nod to Software + Services, you download and install an app in Windows, and then log in to Lively.  Here’s a description of what happens next from Google Blogoscoped:

Once you logged into a room, you can start customizing your avatar. First you can pick from a base type – like male, female or animal – and then you can fine-tune your hair, skin color, eyes and more. You’ll then see yourself surrounded by other avatars, and there’s background music and lots of laughing, grunting and other noises. The graphic has a lighthearted cartoon touch, reminiscent of something like a Lucasarts 3D game. When you talk by using the chat box at the bottom, your words appear as speech bubble above your character.

Lively exists in “rooms” you create, which according to Google’s Niniane Wang, express your personality:

If you enter a Lively room embedded on your favorite blog or website, you can immediately get a sense of the room creator’s interests, just by looking at the furniture and environment they chose. You can also express your own personality by customizing your avatar’s look, showing people who you are without having to say a word. Of course, you can chat with each other, and you can also interact through animated actions.

configure-room_thumb Opinion

(screenshot from Google Blogoscoped)

Another 3D product, to probably their great dismay, was announced (well announced again) on the same day as Lively.  Vivaty, a new company with a new product, Scenes.  This one works with Facebook and AIM, currently:

vivaty_thumb Opinion

So what does this all have to do with Windows Live?  Well our friend Jamie Thomson wondered the same thing.  Now we really admire Jamie’s passion about Windows Live, but sometimes his blog posts are long on wishful thinking and short on fact.  This time, however, he lays out a compelling case for Windows Live working on some 3D magic of their own.  His synopsis:

  1. In Fall (I call it Autumn) 2007 a Microsoft exec said to expect big things in about a year or so.
  2. There’s a big Virtual Earth release coming up in fall 2008 so says a Virtual Earth evangelist.
  3. Someone involved with building 3D models in Virtual Earth has come out and said that Microsoft are building a virtual world using Virtual Earth.

(links added from the original blog post)

In addition, if you watch the Channel 9 video that Sunshine posted here this morning, Mark Brown (hey the same VE Evangelist that said there’s a big release coming this fall – oooh the plot thickens!) interviews two guys who work on the UltraCam, and they are all about separating the plant material from buildings, etc., and also capturing perspective views of buildings.  If you listen closely to the video, you’ll begin to understand that much of what appears in Live Maps 3D is being captured and created (and planned for from the get-go) in the camera and the software.

And of course there’s the whole 3DVia piece, where all kinds of 3D objects can be constructed and included in Live Maps 3D.

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UPDATE:  Was just reminded of the Microsoft acquisition of Caligari, who already have a 3D rendering product out – TrueSpace:

truespace_thumb Opinion

Will we be seeing something from these guys soon?

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When Live Maps 3d was first demoed, it included advertising in the form of billboards that were inserted into scenes.  Those quickly disappeared, but the technology to add to the 3D scenes (and the concept of having advertising within Live Maps 3D) has been around since the beginning.  Again, here’s Matt Baron, the 3DVia guy quoted above:

First they are building the real world, and step by step they are coming closer to a fully immersive environment.

While both Lively and Vivaty are interesting, especially Lively with the power of Google behind it, neither one of these products seems like much of a step forward from Second Life, which while it took off at first, has kind of lost its edge.  Will a more fully immersive environment, with direct ties to the real world, take the next step in 3D?  While we don’t have any solid information, we think Jamie might just be on to something.