Lively Is Dead

RIP Lively by Google.

RIP Lively by Google.

What is Lively and why should I care? Both good questions. Lively is Google’s first shot at a virtual 3D community a la Second Life.

I first read the news on TechCrunch.com. The stats there tell the whole 4.5 month story from start to finish. Having recently finished teaching a class using Second Life, this news got me thinking about the use of virtual worlds in language learning. Is this the future of language teaching? Not yet.

In addition to the high price of admission (in terms of the performance of the computer required to access and the quality of the connection necessary,) there simply aren’t enough users for students to interact yet. When first released, early adopters tried out Second Life and built lots of neat things. But since then, many seem to have left. And, guess what? It turns out that if you build it, they won’t necessarily come. My experience, and that of my students, was that there was lots of interesting things to look at, but few interesting people to meet. I suspect Google found a similar patter in usership and pulled the plug before Lively hit its lull.

So, what’s next? The good news is, there currently seems to be a lot of academic interest in virtual worlds, which may help to populate, and thereby revive, worlds like Second Life. Google seems to be on to another approach which is to integrate Google Earth with a Second-Life-like user experience. Already, users are able to add 3D representations of buildings (Ancient Rome, for example). Google’s next step maybe be taking what they learned from Lively and making it a part of Google Earth as well. Will that eventually conquer Second Life? It won’t have the same fantasy-themed vibe of much of Second Life but (perhaps as a result of this) it probably already has more users. In the end, ESL students probably won’t care if they are in Ancient Rome or Renaissance Island, as long as there are people to talk to.

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4 Comments

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4 responses to “Lively Is Dead

  1. The 3D virtual world scene is booming, even considering the loss of Google Lively. There are an increasing number of new 3D virtual environments such as Hangout.net and ExitReality, both of which are relatively new. How quickly they will become as widely populated as Second Life is difficult to know – I suspect it is a bit of a chicken and egg situation, with there only recently being 3D environments that do not need specific graphics cards. Lively, ExitReality and Hangout.net all avoid the need for such powerful graphics cards and so may well open up a broader interest in 3D virtual reality.

    I think Twinity is another interesting one to watch, as it is based on the real world (currently Berlin with London and Singapore to follow) and so encourages a sense of certain languages being linked to specific locations in-world.

    I hope to see you at the http://www.SLanguages.net conference next year will see many more examples of language education in a wide variety of 3D online environments – not just Second Life.

  2. Thanks for your comment, Howard. I did paint all virtual worlds with a pretty broad brush by implying my criticisms of Second Life applied to all.

    I agree that virtual worlds are booming in the sense that there are new ones popping up every day. I would not agree in the respect that they are not being widely used to teach language.

    Will they ever be? I think saying virtual worlds will replace the classroom is a bit like saying computers will replace teachers. Both are valuable tools that, if used appropriately, can supplement traditional methods. But, in my experience, they are not yet a substitute for face-to-face learning.

    I realize you did not claim virtual worlds would soon replace classrooms, but there are people out there who do.

    I’m glad this technology is being explored and I wish you luck with your conference.

  3. Yep – I don’t think online life will replace offline life – not in education nor in other respects.

    The physical classroom is here to stay.

    What that physical classroom will look like in the future, is quite another question!

  4. Agreed. And interesting tools, including virtual worlds, are being developed every day. Thanks for reading and commenting!

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