Hangout combines Facebook, MySpace and the Sims to create a virtual world for 16-24 year olds to interact in. By creating “rooms”, users have the ability to create a customized environment in which all their interests are represented. Recent interests are catalogued in a similar way as to real life, with users able to visit your “room” and see what you have been listening to and watching lately.
The virtual 3D rooms are user-created, but several important features allow the users to interact with the real world. Through partnerships, Hangout has created an environment which kids can affect their avatar or room, and then directly purchase items. For example, through a partnership with posters.com, kids can decorate their room both in the virtual world and the real world. Other opportunities exist with the ability to deck out your virtual and real self with the same t-shirt.
Today at TC50, the audience was given a virtual tour of Hangout, in which we visited a couple of rooms. One could easily see how personality can be represented, just like in real life. (Except a whole lot cheaper than giving your dwelling a design makeover). Furniture can be modified, games can be added, and even musical instruments can be utilized. In the demo, a kick drum was hit (not) in rhythm with Led Zep’s Kashmir. Even though it wasn’t like playing along with the song, there is clearly a lot of potential here. All good news for the Hangout team, as they are trying to maintain the balance between individual creativity and mainstream usage.