The new How My Body Works app offers a kid-friendly introduction to the human body that’s suitable for 4th to 8th graders. It has beautifully designed graphics, and a wealth of video and audio snippets that encourage kids to explore.
The app feels very much like an exhibit at a Disney Epcot pavilion, with the same kind of serious-but-enticing approach that aims to entertain as much as to inform, but that can run a bit dry due to the subject material.
Users select from a variety of systems (sensory, locomotor, circulatory, digestive, and even reproductive with accurate names and descriptions), and then tap on body parts to hear a description of their function. It’s a perfect way to excite kids who might be thinking of biology and medicine careers.
Be aware that the narrator cartoon speaks with a British accent that might be hard for American kids to follow, especially when he’s discussing some of the systems like “respiratory” and “circulatory”.
The text parts of the lessons tend to skew more advanced than the videos. When discussing coughing, the app reads, “First your epiglottis closes, and then you suddenly expel air from your lungs; at the same time, the pressure in your lungs and ribcage shoots up.” This is certainly within standard tweenage/middle-school reading levels, but you should measure your kid’s abilities against the app’s text content.
While the app itself shows high production values, my iPad 2 struggled to keep up with it. It’s very large, especially after you download the optional system packs, and resource intensive.
Moving from system-to-system brought up a “Wait for system to load” screen that lasted for up to a minute. Once loaded, the narrator auto-starts his introduction, so you can put the device down and you’ll know when it’s ready to go.
You download the app and then make in-app purchases for the content. I understand the app’s $9.99 price point allows parents to evaluate the product first then purchase. I recommend that parents be part of the app evaluation process with their kids, and then buy the entire bundle or delete the app so in-app purchases does not become a worry when you hand over the device.
Is the app worth the high price? I think it mostly is. The app is packed with valuable information and an enticing interface. Could it benefit from a bit of engineering? Certainly, especially for dealing with system lags as the app loads resources. This probably wouldn’t be a big problem on desktop systems, but you can certainly feel it on iOS.
In the end “How My Body Works” is a pretty good app, although I do wish it had been a great one.