I’m getting my first look at Google Lively tonight, the 3D virtual world/avatar chat environment they began anonymously testing on incoming students at Arizona State University last summer. My first impression: Second Life doesn’t have anything to worry about — yet — but I wouldn’t want to be on the other side of the field from the Big G, would you?

Hanging out in Google Lively

From the home page we’re told that as long as we have Windows Vista or XP we can “download the local client software and create our own virtual space, chat and interact with friends in rooms we design; customize our avatar; and invite friends to chat and help decorate.”

Knowing some of my friends I’ll pass on the decorating help. The rest is pretty cool, though, including the Facebook widget (and reportedly soon one for MySpace) and the ability to stream your own video and music.

A Google search brings up lots of stories and almost as many blog posts in the past day or two. There’s a hands-on review in Ars Techica and more reports in Wired, on TeraNova, in the New York Daily News, nextNY Blog and of course a ration of Google Lively machinima on YouTube. [kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/zjOMjhnT4nA" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]

Many of these first reports and posts sound like they were written by greifers, and the lack of a Mac client is a disappointment, but like most things in early Beta — particularly those that are funded by Google’s billions — my bet is it’s going to get better over time. It’s also hugely validating for the new convergence of social networks, virtual worlds and user generated content we’ve been talking about and working on here lately, and that alone brings a certain satisfaction.