Want to explore anatomy in 3D? Visible Body has developed a series of three educational apps that allow you to do just that! Their detailed 3D imagery makes visualizing the human body a rich multimedia experience, and their in-depth content makes these apps valuable reference tools for learning and teaching anatomy. If you’re enrolling in an anatomy class, looking for a way to review anatomical structures, or in need of an easy-to-use app for patient care, Visible Body’s premium series has you covered.
3D Human Anatomy Atlas – PC/Mac subscription ($14.95/mo) or one-time download ($39.99); iPhone 4/4s ($9.99); iPad 2 or later ($29.99); Android ($29.99).
Visible Body Human Anatomy Atlas is a 3D, interactive, comprehensive anatomy atlas app available for several platforms. My review is for the iPad3.
Upon launching the app you are greeted by the home screen and given the choice of a male or female model. There is also a link to a helpful tutorial that explains the app’s touch gestures and basic features. After selecting a gender, you’ll see the main menu, which is organized with tabs for each region or system. Each tab contains one or more pages of thumbnails, and tapping a thumbnail opens the 3D model.
The model view is an easy, intuitive interface. Single finger swipes rotate the model, a three finger swipe on the touchscreen pans across the image (though I prefer to use the navigational arrows provided in the menu), and zooming is achieved with the normal gestures of pinching or pulling two fingers. Tapping on a structure highlights it. You can then tap the “Definition” button in the bottom menu for information on that structure. The “Actions” button gives you full control over the on-screen view – you are able to show, hide or fade the structures of your choice, easily accomplished even in a large model by using the multiple select feature. If you get lost inside all that anatomy, “Refresh Position” and “Refresh View” instantly return the model to its original settings.
The search feature is perhaps this app’s greatest strength. Simply tap the “Search” button in the bottom menu to get started. The results include near-matches – for example, a search for “pulmonary artery” will also have “pulmonary valve” in the list, a feature that could be useful for students. The results screen has the option to either jump to that structure or to add it to your current screen. If added, the structure shows up in the proper location relative to the model you were already viewing.
This app is a great example of the iPad’s power and is much more entertaining than looking through a traditional anatomy atlas.
3D Heart & Circulatory Premium II – iPad ($19.99)
The Visual Body Heart & Circulatory app is a great resource for in-depth study of the circulatory system. It has a few new features that go beyond the offerings of Body Atlas. The main menu includes links to a multimedia circulatory system overview, an atlas, quizzes, and a gallery of animations and illustrations.
The Circulatory app’s atlas is very similar to the Body Atlas. The 3D model view includes familiar controls (select, rotate, pan, fade, hide, etc), along with the ability to draw freehand to annotate your image. This feature does put a demand on the iPad’s processing abilities. I found that the draw tool lagged, making it difficult to write legibly.
Another new feature is the ability to save your image from within the app. You can send a screenshot via email or to your iPad’s photo gallery.
There are also 24 quizzes, organized by systemic arteries, systemic veins, and heart and pulmonary circulation.The gallery provides some great animations (a resource noticeably lacking from the Body Atlas), along with more traditional anatomy illustrations.
If you need to focus on the circulatory system, it doesn’t get any more detailed than this app.
3D Muscular Premium Anatomy – PC/Mac download ($29.99); iPhone 4/4S ($6.99); iPad 2 or later ($19.99)
The Muscular System app is organized a bit differently. The main menu offers a muscle atlas, a bone atlas, a direct link to specific regions, an index, and quizzes. Unlike the other two apps in this review, the navigation is arranged in a tree format. Selecting an atlas brings up a menu organized by region. Depending on your selection, you may have to drill down through even more specific regions before you can choose a model view.
This layout may be a little confusing, but the index button on the main screen makes navigation a snap if you need to jump quickly from one view to another. Additionally, this app includes the great search functionality of the Visible Body series, making it easy to find a specific structure.
The model view actions available in this app have been downsized to just the essentials, which I think is an improvement since the developers have only preserved the most frequently used buttons. The freehand draw and screenshot buttons work just like they do in the Circulatory app. The quiz feature is also the same (except for the content!).
The Muscular app features a unique new visual tool – pins. Pins are red or blue markers on muscles to show their origin and insertion points. Last but not least, don’t miss the help button if you get stuck! It contains a video tutorial and lots of information on the app’s content.
Overall, these apps are great resources for the biomedical or nursing student, as well as for health care professionals. If you’re interested and want to see videos of the apps in action, check out Visible Body’s Youtube channel (http://www.youtube.com/visiblebody).
Don’t have a mobile device? Don’t like paying for apps? In a future post I’ll be taking a look at Primal Pictures, a desktop application that authorized PennKey users can access for free!
[Update: Read Bethany's evaluation of Primal Pictures here: http://appsontap.wordpress.com/2012/07/19/primal-pictures-interactive-anatomy/]