By Joshua James Harding BSc Hons (MS2)

Anatomy apps are a dime a dozen on the iPad.  You can understand why, once you realize that the field of anatomy is an integral part of a medical degree and the day to day working life of a physician.

With such a plethora of anatomy apps available, it is becoming harder and harder to stand out in this field. Despite this, The Human Body App by Dorling Kindersley manages to do just that.

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DK, established in 1974, creates bestselling, award-winning and visually stunning information for adults and children. The Human body app is based on the award-winning Human Body Book and in DK’s own words “is a unique look at all aspects of anatomy. Authoritative, accessible, and highly visual, the app provides unparalleled access to the structure and functions of the human body.” Bold claims considering its rife competition, and they don’t stop there. On the descriptive page of The Human Body App, DK refers to the app as “a must have reference with enough detail to satisfy the demanding student”. You will also notice a number of endorsements from top magazines and newspapers, supporting this idea and its price of $13.99. However, depending on your background and intended use, it would be unfair of me not to advise caution before purchasing this app. At least until you have read this review.

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In all fairness, the app looks fantastic. It opens with an auditory swish and you are confronted by twelve manikins which rotate in 3D, each visually unique in portraying what system they are covering. Starting with the integrated body, the twelve systems covered in the app are: Skeletal system; Muscular system; Nervous system; Endocrine System; Cardiovascular system; Respiratory system; Lymphatic & Immune system; Digestive system; Urinary system Reproductive system and finally, the skin, hair and nails.

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Once a system is selected you will be taken to a full size annotated image; it is then possible to explore each image with the standard gestures, single finger drag and pinch zoom. Although, only having a 2D image in a world where fully manipulative 3D anatomy is common place, is a serious oversight from DK. You are, however, able to switch to alternative views, and each system can be viewed in 360° via four individual images.

Unfortunately, this doesn’t really allow you to get a better feel for anything that you may be looking at. It is not possible to select these images or view them in greater size, making it impossible to view some structures at all (the pelvic floor muscles as an example).

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Aside from the disappointing views, you are able to click on each annotation and learn a little bit more. By clicking on a + next to a muscle for instance, you will be told what its functions are. There are various navigation buttons within the app and viewing options at the bottom allows one to view image only, no annotations, or view all.

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At the top of the screen is a drop down menu which contains the chapters for the particular system. Tapping any one of these will take you to a flash carousel menu.  This allows you to go deeper into the system you have selected, giving you the option (in some cases) to view more explanatory text, annotations, story boxes and video content. You can alternatively reach the carousel via the button on the right of the screen.

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On each page, whether it is the initial system or an individual chapter, there is a short accompanying text box which will give you a broad overview of that specific page. Once you are finished viewing the content of your chosen system — which won’t take long — you can simply swipe left or right to move to another system, or alternatively open the system select menu or go back to the main menu. A search function is also available.

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If you are a student studying at the high school or college level, or you are just feeling curious about how the body works, then this app won’t disappoint you. Some undergraduates who require less detail but just want to get a broad overview of the body may also benefit. Physicians, Medical students, and relevant health-care professionals should steer well clear, though, as The Human Body app simply does not have the detail required to be of any use to university courses that require any real level of detail, nor would they be appropriate for use at point of care, in doctor/patient communication.

Price:

  • $13.99

Likes:

  • Novel carousel menu
  • Fancy UI
  • High quality images
  • It’s fun!

Dislikes:

  • The content lacks depth and detail
  • For this price many people will likely feel cheated
  • A simple conversion from book to app (minus the detail you get with the book)

Conclusion:

  • In Greek mythology, the Sirens were three bird-like women, seducing with their beauty and enchanting songs they lured nearby sailors onto rocky coasts. Like the Sirens, the Human Body app lures you in with beautiful graphics and a novel interface, but may ultimately leave you straggling on the rocks in disappointment.
  • I was very disappointed with this app, primarily because it has one of the best user interfaces I’ve seen in an anatomy app. If DK were to replace the 2D images with a fully manipulative 3D body and add more content in line with a standard medical degree, it would be a real core learning tool.
  • Unfortunately, The Human Body App falls short of impressive in the medical community and quite rightly deserves to be in the Education category of the app store rather than Medical.

iTunes Link