Visible Body: The best thing since Google Earth

I subscribe to NOTCOT.org's RSS feed because they have lots of little bits about interesting and fun graphic design stuff, which I enjoy. Their feeds are quick to go through and sometimes I find some interesting stuff. Today as I was quickly going through my NOTCOT feeds, I saw this headline:

"Visible Body ~ Travel by the human body into a model interactive, 3D, detailed and understandable. It's like "Google Earth" Human Body!"

I love Google Earth. It's amazing. I use it all the time in the classroom, and would probably use it more if student computers could download it. I headed out to the Visible Body website to see what the fuss was all about.

Turns out Visible Body is a free, online, tool that allows you to manipulate a 3D model of the human body. Want to see just the digestive system? No problem. Want to see the position of muscles over the skeletal system. Easy! Just select both systems and then make the muscular system transparent. Now you can see how the muscles sit on the bones. Better yet, you can zoom in and rotate the model to your heart's content (if you're familiar with Google Earth, you'll have no problem with the controls. If not, it'll take you only a few seconds of playing to get it going). You can also click on part of the model, and it tells you what you just clicked on. You can also search for names of nerves, muscles, organs, etc. and it'll show you where that is on the body.

Here's a screenshot I just took while playing around (and yes, that is the right Musculophrenic Vein highlighted in teal):

The features (as I've found in my short time playing with this tool):

  • It's free. You just need to create a login.
  • No program to download. I did have to download an Anark plug-in. I was even able to do this at my school, where lots of download-able content is blocked.
  • Total control of 3D model manipulation.
  • Your choice of what systems to show. You can even hide certain organs to get a better look at something underneath.
  • Search for a part, and it'll show you where it is.
  • Click on a part, it'll tell you what it is.
  • Downside: it currently only works with Internet Explorer. I didn't see any talk on the website about future versions compatible with Firefox, Safari, or what have you.

What a great tool for the classroom! Anatomical models are expensive, and then you only have one to show in front of class or pass around. Here, each student could be manipulating their own, extremely detailed model.

Quick note: While I was playing with this tool, I added the Integumentary system to the model, being unsure of what that was. The Integumentary system, it turns out includes the skin, hair, nails, etc. covering the exterior of the body. So, suddenly I had a very accurate model of a naked woman on my desktop. Please don't let this stop you from using this tool; just a warning so you're not surprised. :)  The FAQs do mention they're developing a "G-rated" version for younger users.