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Review by Emily Pohlonski, Common Sense Education | Updated October 2016

Anatomy 4D

Augmented-reality tool has potential, but not ready for classroom use

Subjects & skills
  • Science

  • Critical Thinking
Grades This grade range is based on learning appropriateness and doesn't take into account privacy. It's determined by Common Sense Education, not the product's publisher.
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5 images

Pros: Augmented-reality features bring organs, such as a 3D pulsing heart, to life on your device.

Cons: Without additional resources or support, students will have a hard time gaining deep conceptual understanding of the human body.

Bottom Line: Cool visuals, but this tool needs more development before it will help high school kids meet NGSS performance expectations.

Anatomy 4D will initially excite students with its augmented-reality features, which are definitely cool. However, students will likely get frustrated quickly because they'll have to move the piece of paper around to get body parts to move on the screen. Kids may have a hard time holding up their device and moving the paper in just the right way.

While Anatomy 4D is not quite ready for classroom use, individual students might find it fun to play around with. Advanced students might want to work on creating their own 4D-enabled documents about the human body and view them using the free DAQRI app.

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Anatomy 4D is a free app that uses augmented reality to let students interact with the human body. Kids must first print out a 4D-enabled image of the human body or heart from the app's Target Library. Then the app uses the camera on the device to bring to life a three-dimensional pulsing image. 

A rotating menu allows students to turn on or off the blood flow to the heart. Students can also remove and bring back body parts such as the aorta, helping them in anatomy identification. Users must be 17 years old to download the app, which is surprising since the images aren't especially mature or graphic.

In a market flooded with interactive anatomy websites and apps, Anatomy 4D needs further development before it will be useful in high school classrooms. Currently, the only two images available in the Target Library are the human body and the heart; students can peek at the different body systems but they can't go very deep. Other apps may cost more money but offer significantly more interaction and learning potential.

To meet the high school expectations for the Next Generation Science Standards, Anatomy 4D will need to add the ability to click on body parts to find specific functions. Without those features, this app is a mostly passive affair that won't enhance students' science knowledge. Formative assessment tools and ways to track student learning are also missing; these and other interactive features would significantly boost the tool's learning potential.

Overall Rating

Engagement Is the product stimulating, entertaining, and engrossing? Will kids want to return?

Augmented reality is fun, but it loses its cool factor quickly when kids have a hard time getting the body parts to move the way they want. Animations are neat, but it's difficult to zoom in.

Pedagogy Is learning content seamlessly baked-in, and do kids build conceptual understanding? Is the product adaptable and empowering? Will skills transfer?

Without features for saving work or tagging images, there's limited learning potential; there's not much here to help students build their own understanding about how parts of the body work together.

Support Does the product take into account learners of varying abilities, skill levels, and learning styles? Does it address both struggling and advanced students?

Unlike the developer's similar Elements 4D app, this app lacks lesson plans and other support materials. The only help provided is a "support" link where you can fill out a form to ask questions. 

Common Sense Reviewer
Emily Pohlonski Classroom teacher

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