Discovering the secrets of the human body with SuperBodies HD

If you've only have seen the iPad in commercials, you'll imagine that most of the apps available are for education. Examples such as Star Walk and The Elements show that students can forget about expensive and heavy books and won't get tired of innovative new releases for the platform.

SuperBodies HD [iTunes Link] by Peace Point aims to show what happens inside the bodies of elite athletes with a mixture of original video explanations, computer-generated recreations and virtual exploration.

If educative TV programs such as the Canadian show that gives name to the app weren't enough, the app hopes to offer more interaction options thanks to the capabilities of the device. 

When you launch the app, you'll select an Olympic sport from gymnastics, badminton, boxing, volleyball, 100 m dash and swimming. Every option will start with the playback of a video with host Dr. Greg Wells and some real footage to introduce the key points athletes should work on and how it affects their bodies. As a side note, I I have never watched the content before and I really liked the way everything is explained—it reminds me of the type of animations used in CSI to explain a crime scene. 


Once the intro video is over, you are presented with a bloodstream view navigator, where you cruise through the circulatory system in a number of mazes until you reach the next part of the body that needs your attention. The navigation supports swipe and tilt controls, but the virtual environment is so bland and repetitive, that merely acts as a connection between videos. From a gaming point of view, it doesn't work.

One can clearly imagine that in the real TV show, these gaps in time don't exist and that the navigation part of the app was thrown in to allow you to choose the next clip without following any specific order. In fact, you can simply avoid the virtual navigator taping on the body areas highlighted with a black circle and enabling the auto-pilot to avoid the fiddly controls.

Why so bloody?

With the upcoming London 2012 Olympic Games and the appeal of sports to convey complex concepts of physiology,  the SuperBodies franchise should make a very decent multimedia app. However, it feels that the developer was more worried about launching a branded app than creating a fully independent iOS property. I wonder if SuperBodies could be marketed better as an app with episodes instead of a single item, as it is not very clear the amount of content bundled in. I haven't watched all the videos yet, but the download size of 280 MB should give you a good estimate.

It would be great to include some text in the form of articles or glossary entries to expand its depth. In SuperBodies, everything is audiovisual, with little to read. Having seen what Push Pop Press did for an iPad book like Our Choice, I can only expect someone to come up with a similar solutions to make the traditional multimedia format more interactive.

SuperBodies looks and sounds like a great tool to make abstract concepts more interesting to students and children. However, it would benefit from episodical releases with new content or app sequels. Navigating the human body as a red cell in the athlete's circulatory system was supposed to be the element tying everything together, but as I see it, its flawed. Perhaps switching from body areas could gain more visibility? As I said, the virtual environment navigation system doesn't do justice to the quality of the video itself.