After testing Lively last night, I setup and tested the Vivaty system in Facebook. The difference is stunning. Vivaty wins this by a mile.
The setup took a little longer because I don't have a Facebook account. I'm a hermit and Facebook, in fact most social networks, just aren't my cup of grog. On the other hand, I really wanted to see how well an X3D/VRML based application for social networks matched against the Google juggernaut.
I was not disappointed. The quality of the Vivaty application shined through. The navigation was much easier and smoother on my old RAM starved Dell 966. The install script scared me a little when it told me I might not have enough resources (512RAM) and asked if I wanted to continue. Continue I did. The install ran smoothly. Active-X controls don't scare me. I'm really not that dumb and I trust the former Media Machines guys.
When I opened Facebook and clicked on the Vivaty gadget, I was very surprised.
1. The 3D matches the quality I am used to when building VRML applications. The Lively had been strangely disappointing given the names associated as builders were many of the people who cut their teeth in Second Life. That 3D simply looked ancient or vertex-starved color-wise and geometry wise. Maybe prim carving is not the best way to learn to design. The Vivaty world was rich, the avatars were classy and overall, it didn't have that cartoony look of Lively.
2. Navigation matched what I am accustomed to in VRML. It was smooth and the mouse reacted nicely. The behaviors on the number keys are not that extensive but a good start. The chat windows are a little awkward in placement. There may be a trick to putting these in the right place but I don't like chat blocking action.
3. The sound was good although the tastes of the person who picked the music and mine are separated by two generations. I assume I can pick something I like better.
4. The built in controls for selecting objects and setting properties just work. I like that.
5. One of the best innovations was the use of the tooltips in the 2D layers. Nice look and they logically walk the user through the first segment of the learning curve. Very good.
I'm not a Facebook user so I can't comment on the utility or cohesiveness with the social network aspects. However, the 3D aspects were far superior and that may be critical. These are entertainment apps and a designer can't treat them like something designed for an ad. Immersion is a fragile illusion and quality counts.
The X3D/VRML pedigree continues to confound the A-listers and other pundits who have predicted it's death or dismissed it as irrelevant. The case may be quite the opposite. The years of hard work put into the X3D standard may have just paid off. This Vivaty application may be the sharp edge of the tipping point, the part that cleaves the buzz-making and long tailing from the actual hard work of building the right technology.
Sometimes money and buzz are to markets what Wyle E Coyote and Acme are to the RoadRunner: side shows that get a lot of screen time but ultimately wind up as road kill or squashed dog meat at the bottom of the technology canyon.