Lively from Google

GOOGLE, KNOWN for its plain-Jane approach to Web design, has come up with something much wackier.On Tuesday the company introduced Lively an online tool that allows people to embody a cartoon-ish online avatar and have text-based conversations with friends and other Internet users in virtual chat rooms. The rooms can be added to any blog or Web site.

Google unveiled the new product in a post on its official blog. It can be reached at but is officially part of Google Labs, an area of the company's site where it showcases projects that remain in the beta, or experimental, phase.

Online chat rooms are two-dimensional - they include text, and sometimes voice and video. Lively tries to make that conversation three-dimensional, more interactive and more fun. As if they were playing a game, users choose from a selection of unrealistically handsome or Disneyesque avatars.They can also create their own rooms, which can be posted to a blog or social network profile as easily as a YouTube video.

Up to 20 people can occupy a room and chat with one an-other. Users can design their own virtual environments, hang-ing on the walls videos from YouTube and photos from Picasa,
Google's photo service, as if they were pieces of art.

Inside Google, the product was headed by Niniane Wang, an engineering manager. Students at the University of Arizona have been testing Lively for several months.

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