Silicon Beach: Miami Startup Vzillion Surfs Different
|Not too shabby: a typical apartment environment in Vzillion. This one doesn't mar Miami's skyline and will never go into foreclosure.|
Vzillion isn't your traditional boring flat web browser. It's a groovy apartment where you can kick back and see the internet through your desktop in a 3D environment. So instead of firing up Firefox, relax on the sofa, put your feet up on the coffee table and check out your favorite bookmarks on a screen before you. Or maybe walk to the kitchen to check out a video and grab a beer.
A beer? Really? How? That's one of the ideas behind Vzillion -- it aims to connect online life to real life. It's like surf and turf. Surf the web but live your turf.
Collier is no stranger to this. His company, Dynamedia Digital Signage, worked to build real-life pizza ordering in Second Life, a huge virtual community. Dynamedia also worked to create VirtuReal, a mall for purchasing real-world products.
Vzillion is completely focused on connecting your real life to your virtual one. It isn't about fantasy or dragon slayers. "Vzillion is about the user, his or hers likes and dislikes," said Collier over the phone. "I'm not against search, but I think that things should find me."
Collier honed in on a Miami example. "Let's say you're in your virtual apartment and listening to a track of your favorite DJ during Music Winter Fest," he explained. "It would be intuitive for Vzillion to text your mobile phone and tell you where the DJ is playing nearby. We're working on providing real-life experiences that are relevant to users."
While the potential for entertainment and shopping is big in Vzillion, it's education that truly inspires Collier and really excited yours truly during the phone interview. It's great to see a company like this using 33131 in its mailing address, especially when Miami constantly gets bashed for being a city full of uneducated morons.
Collier admitted he didn't have as much access to computers as he would've liked when he was growing up. "I always thought we should all have access to everything on a level playing field," he explained. "I want to create possibilities for people who don't have them."
With that in mind, Vzillion does truly have the possibility to change the world.
One therapeutic program in the virtual living spaces has already helped autistic children by helping them navigate different worlds. "The colors and textures are interesting to them," Collier said. "They respond well."
There are also military applications -- for example, helping amputees who can't get out of bed.
The potential for teaching is also limitless. Surfing through a virtual school building, students can walk into one classroom or another, with teachers lecturing in real-time video. But why stop at teaching? Think job fairs, training and conferences, too.
And taking it one step further, Collier also discussed the potential for using Vzillion as platform for establishing microcompanies in underdeveloped nations, so that anyone with a computer and internet access can enjoy some measure of prosperity through entrepreneurship.
"We want this platform to be educational for everyone from babies to baby boomers," Collier added.
The man behind Vzillion chose Miami as his home three years ago. "I love the weather and lifestyle, of course, but I see Miami as a burgeoning area for technology," he claimed. "We have developers all over the world, but many have traveled to Miami. We're really are a virtu-real company. We not only create it, we live it. The city has given us the international feel we wanted. We also want to attract talent here."
Vzillion is currently in early beta, winding its way to the current version since 2006. But Collier even questions the idea of beta, a word he didn't seem to particularly like. "Beta implies something that's subpar," he said. "But we'll always be evolving in a good way."
Technically, however, there are still kinks to work out. Unfortunately, Vzillion's new-fangled browser is currently only available for PCs. A Mac version is in the works.
To test out Vzillion, visit the site and register for early access. Users can contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information. Corporate parties can email email@example.com.