The Human Body
What does it look like inside your body when you burp? When you breathe? When you run? When you poop? This app gives kids a visible body they can play and poke with, to see and explore the way our internal organs and systems work. Drag-and-drop a feather onto the its toes and it will shake and laugh while revealing the signals that travel from the nerves in the feet to the brain.
You can zoom in on an ear and speak into it (thanks to your device’s microphone) and watch as the soundwaves from your voice travel through the canal and into the brain. You can push food particles into the lower intestines to see how they react, set the body running on an empty stomach or a full one, feed it food until it gets the hiccups, and flex limbs to see how muscles constrict and change through different movements.
As a toy of discovery, kids can play with it on their own. There’s no rules, no lessons, just surprises to uncover. If they are struck by a burning question they can record a voice mail for their parents to access later, do the research, and follow up with the answers. Placing parents in the role of teachers is a smart move and an online handbook gives them all the secrets along with the option to turn on anatomical labels for all the body part names. Not that these tools are easy to find. I get the benefit of self-discovery, but it would be very helpful is the section for parents offered more instruction and guidance.
1. Download the Human Body Handbook here.
2. Tap and hold your finger anywhere on the screen to activate the voice recorder.
3. Select one body system only (skeletal, nervous, etc.) and then check the Settings Menu (upper right) and select the tag icon to turn on body part names.
To teach young kids anatomy is such an ambitious task that you have to marvel at the way they’ve done so playfully and with just the right visual style so that the anatomy looks true without being shockingly visceral. This is the first in what I expect will be a very influential series of educational apps and I look forward to seeing more.
Grumpy Cat Animated Shirt – Digital Dudz 2013
This past weekend my animated Grumpy Cat shirt turned quite a few heads. Here’s the app I used to make it.
Digital Dudz uses your smartphone to add animated effects to your clothing. You take a T-shirt with a design on it and cut out holes for the effects, then attach your smartphone to the inside of the shirt so that the effects on the screen is revealed. If you don’t have the patience to figure it all out, creator Mark Rober sells shirts online that already have the holes and special Velcro pouches for your phone at $30 each.
This year he’s updated the app with new effects and features that make the trick more convincing. Since he’s included a pair of cat eyes to the mix I thought it a natural fit to create a Grumpy Cat shirt and, as you can see, it turned out great. The eyes blink, look around, change colour, and even ignite with flames. It turns heads.
Zombie fans who like the included beating heart and wound effects should check out the flesh bibs Rober has on his website. He says he’ll be adding more effects between now and Halloween, which is plenty of time to start planning your special costume.
Re-Mission 2: Nanobot’s Revenge
This sequel to the cancer-fighting video game from 2001 continues the goal of giving patients something positive and educational to focus on while undergoing chemotherapy and radiation treatments. Re-Mission 2 is a bundle of six games aimed at both kids and young adults, each portraying a battle against different types of cancers.
Video games are fantastic at taking strange, abstract concepts and making them comfortable for us to relate to. This is the perfect platform to visualize a chemotherapy agent floating through a visceral bloodstream on the hunt to “chomp” bacteria. When you are ill and having to grasp the complex processes going on within your body it helps to have an activity like this for you to seize on and work out the details with. It’s also a benefit that games can deliver a sense of progress and achievement with emotional awards for something in real life where the goals are often difficult to measure.
The mobile app includes just the first title from the bundle, Nanobot’s Revenge, an arcade-style game which has you firing chemotherapy blasts, assassins, pills, and beams against renegade cells that build necrosis structures and try to invade the blood stream. Designed with input from patients, it features wild creature designs and a fun escalating ladder of different weapons and cellular monsters.
The remaining five games can be played online here and offer platform, arcade, and puzzle-styled approaches to defeating leukemia, rescuing healthy cells, and assisting white blood cells. They all deliver a sense of action that’s easy to pick up. There’s engaging music and a clear sense of progression and upgrades (something that most promotional and non-profit games lack).
My personal favourites are web-only for now. Nano Dropbot is a rescue game featuring wonderfully sweet characters and great music. Stem Cell Defender is based on the novel idea of “flinging” bacteria and cancers cells into white blood cells, and Feeding Frenzy has you addictively swimming through a cave-like blood system to hunt and eat bacteria. There’s a ghostly cancer cell that appears in that last game that makes it very atmospheric.
This isn’t just a sentimental exercise, there’s great work being done here.