Picture2 300x142 Layar gets some serious competition: junaio brings 3D augmented reality to your iPhoneAs cellphones are no longer just cellphones but GPS equipped, compass geared mobile computers, we are seeing an increasing number of Augmented Reality browsers.

The Internet has been a buzz about Dutch company Layar that turns Augmented Reality into a platform with a growing third party developer network.

Give a warm welcome to junaio (yes, no capital)! While Layar has recently announced 3D support for November, junaio is all about 3D right from the start. The basic idea is to allow users to place 3D (animated) objects into the real world and let others find and explore these user generated scenes. That said, junaio does not require you to sign up for a developer account or do any sort of coding.

The interface to build 3D augmented scenes has been built right into the iPhone application and junaio also plans to provide a web based scene editor. (The app should become available via the App Store shortly, we’ve done a sneak peak as part of a closed beta.) Creating a scene is a very straightforward task:

junaio01 300x200 Layar gets some serious competition: junaio brings 3D augmented reality to your iPhoneOnce you’re in a cool place you fire up junaio, take a picture and add 3D objects from the built-in library to your snapshot. The objects can be moved around (along all three axes, so you can move objects “deeper” into the photo), rotated, annotated with text and hyperlinked to any URL. When you’re happy with your creation, you decide to publish it to junaio or Facebook.

In the image to the right I’ve added a 3D T-Rex next to Sten Tamkivi, Skype’s Chief Evangelist at the eComm Europe stage and put a www hyperlink object into Steve’s hands. Sorry, Steve, wrong time, wrong place :-).

Crafting augmented scenes is only half of the game. junaio comes with a Directory, Live and Map View allowing users to discover scenes published by others. The directory lists all published scenes descending by distance to your current location. Map and Live view let you find scenes that are near you interactively.

At any time you can browse through or search the list of scenes published by other creative junaio users and watch them, even if you happen to be on a different continent.

juanio02 200x300 Layar gets some serious competition: junaio brings 3D augmented reality to your iPhoneThe real fun, however, comes when you’re in a spot where somebody else has left 3D objects before you. In that case you can see these objects through junaio’s Live View. As all assets are backed by full 3D models, you can walk around the virtual objects or move towards them to explore them in greater detail.

Though I don’t see myself chasing Augmented Reality objects in my neighborhood anywhere in the near future, it’s an interesting experience (YouTube video here) which opens up opportunities for many fascinating new use cases.

I also wonder, when we will be able to interact with these virtual objects, e.g. picking up virtual goods others left and dropping them in other places.

junaio is currently in private beta and planning to go live by the end of next week. Go, check it out and don’t forget to point us to your scenes in the comments!