While there can be no substitute for the classroom, for years technological advances have been making it easier for individuals to learn what they want when they can and in the way that works best for them.
The internet is a great place to look for text and video content but this material is not enough for many people seeking a deeper understanding of complex topics, especially those that exist in the physical world but are difficult to get one’s hands on.
It is in this field that AR technology, and particularly augmented reality apps, outshines other technological tools for learning. By presenting content in a format more interactive or detailed than the models many of us remember from science classes but with all of the textual and audible content that we’ve come to expect from the internet, the AR app in this article — and others like it — are literally changing the ways that we see science.
Visible Body was launched by Argosy Publishing in 2008. This service is actually a collection of five independently available apps meant for learning about the human body, largely through the manipulation of 3D models.
Of course, AR technology wasn’t as impressive ten years ago as it is now. AR apps are not Argosy’s specialty, but the last decade has given Argosy plenty of time to perfect their 3D modeling software to prepare it for the AR revolution that we are in now.
The Human Anatomy Atlas
Probably the most impressive of the Visible Body apps is the Human Anatomy Atlas. Updated annually, the 2018 version, most recently updated last month, is the first version of the app that allows AR interaction, becoming the first and so far the only Visible Body AR app.
When using the augmented reality app, interactive 3D models appear on any flat surface that the mobile device is pointed at. Moving the device through the model moves through different layers or cross-sections of the model from gross anatomy to the micro-anatomy of special organs.
The 3D models can be accompanied by texts and can be viewed next to illustrations and photographs to help the user better understand the material.
Requirements and Features
Compatible with Android 5 or iOS 11 and higher, this AR app takes up just over a GB of space and costs $25.
That’s a lot more space than the average educational augmented reality app, (and quite a bit more money), so putting it on your phone might be a stretch, especially if you don’t have a high-end phone or expanded memory, or if this isn’t the only AR app that you like to play with on your device. Keep in mind that the Atlas wasn’t designed as an AR app, and that you’re getting a lot more content with it than with those other apps.
Reviews of the AR app on Google Play and The App Store both tend toward positive, though some users mention glitching or lag that is likely due to the size of the app, and may not be a problem on devices with more memory. After all, that reviewer didn’t describe what kind of device they were using or what their storage was like. If I installed an app this big on my phone it would probably explode, but the tablet that I use for work could take it just fine even though my tablet has a lot more on it than my phone.
Favorite features of the older versions of the app can also be used on a desktop or laptop, though components of the AR app do not carry over.
Fortunately, the app can be shared on up to six devices so that some components can be used on a mobile device and the other tools for tasks like creating presentations and taking notes, can be used on a larger device.
Resources for Educators
Visible Body also has special tools and offers for educators who would like to make this augmented reality app and Visible Body’s four other apps a part of their curriculum.
These resources include additional recommendations for compiling courses, material for creating assignments and labs, and other content.
There are also versions of the app for organizations but the Human Body Atlas AR app has not yet been released for groups.
The size and cost of this app might make it a little industrious for the curious learner, though it should certainly be useful to students, especially those in higher education. I certainly wish it had been around when I was taking anatomy classes in college.
If you have the cash and space to spend, this is certainly the best anatomy AR app I’ve seen out there, but there are simpler and cheaper ones that might be better suited for casual use.
It’s also interesting that this app evolved out of an older program and that it wasn’t designed by a big augmented reality company. It’s a shame that the other apps in the system haven’t gone AR (yet) and that this AR app has problems like it’s huge memory requirements, but it’s also exciting to see what Living Body does next, after the Atlas has had so much success and positive reviews, despite the size and cost.