Leonardo DaVinci: Anatomy – Science And Art Unite On iPad

Leonardo Da Vinci: Anatomy (iPad only) from the extraordinary developers at Touch Press showcases Da Vinci’s achievements in anatomy. The app comprises drawings housed at Windsor Castle that were lost to the world for 400 years.

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Martin Clayton, curator of the Royal Collection of Drawings narrates the app’s video introduction and wrote its 11 chapters explains how Da Vinci charted the human body before anyone knew the way. 

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The drawings themselves show his understanding of anatomy was hundreds of years ahead of its time, yet he never published any of his findings. According to Clayton, “Leonardo saw painting as a scientific pursuit.” Leonard Da Vinci: Anatomy highlights the interrelation of art and science for the reader.

The app’s main screen offers readers a choice between “The Story” and “The Drawings.” There are 268 drawings to study, all optimized for the new iPad’s retina display. Thankfully, they’re organized by physiological system: body, muscles, organs, vessels, and skeleton. 

Da Vinci had a habit of taking notes from right to left, so his handwriting looks to the unaided eye as if it were a reflected in a mirror. The app does a wonderful job of allowing users to interact with the writing. First, users can hold a mirror lens over the writing to see Leonardo’s handwriting reversed in the original Italian. Then users can tap a button to see the text translated into English right on the page.

The chapters that comprise the story section provide commentary on Da Vinci’s anatomical drawings. Throughout the text there are hyperlinks that highlight a particular section of an artwork giving the reader a more nuanced understanding of the art without distracting from it. 

Double tapping any image opens it in a new screen where the reader can zoom in and examine small details. Tapping the small info icon in the lower left brings up a screen with information about the drawing including its size, method of composition, and history. Users can jump back to the main screen with a single tap, or bring up the list of chapters to skip between chapters.

The static images seamlessly transition to video clips right on the digital page. This magical-feeling feature redefines the possibilities for GUIs. I’d never seen anything quite like it before. The app supports both landscape and portrait orientation, and as expected, most drawings are best viewed in portrait orientation.

Leonardo da Vinci: Anatomy meets readers at the neglected intersection of anatomy and art. If ever there were one place that captured the artist’s insatiable desire to understand the world through creating and cataloging, this would be it. This use of the iPad suggests many exciting possibilities for preserving and sharing works of art and literature in the future. 

Anyone in the neighborhood of Bristol UK should visit Ten Drawings by Leonardo Da Vinci, an exhibition at the Bristol Museum and Art Gallery that coincides with the release of this remarkable digital coffee table book. While the app is relatively pricey as iPad book apps go, it gives readers an enormous amount of information in a well-designed, accessible package.  


Slacker Radio Rocks On

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Music fans are a heterogeneous lot. There are nearly as many ways to listen to music as there are songs to choose from. Slacker Radio offers something for nearly all of them. We’ve covered the Slacker Radio app (universal) once before, but I asked lifelong music fan, and fellow One Track Mind contributor Brad Reno to join me in taking Slacker for a spin to find out how Slacker stacks up against our formidable record (and cassette, CD, 7” single, and MP3) collections and all of the nerdy minutiae in our heads.

Slacker’s music library is vast, but aficionados of any ilk are still going to find holes. Brad felt frustrated that Slacker’s selection of deep cuts from the 1980s were frequently unavailable. I ran a similar check on the early ‘90s and found the song selection broad but not deep. For example, the Mary Timony-lead trio Helium released two stellar full-lengths and an EP in the mid-‘90s, but Slacker only has one of them.

Brad discovered that if a listener tries to play an unavailable track, Slacker will substitute what it deems a similar track. He explains that his “attempt to listen to “The Original Sin” by Cowboys International instead got me “Never Say Never” by Romeo Void, which was an odd but pleasant surprise. Listeners with niche tastes should test the app’s limits using the free version before they decide to subscribe. Notably, the lack of catalog depth didn’t make either of us stop listening.

I enjoyed the Top 50 Indie Songs of 2011 Slacker Spotlight Station, hosted by Marco Collins. Slacker created the list from its Indie and Indie Electronic stations, (the two stations I spent most of my time with) and based the selections on user play counts and favourites. 

Brad found Slacker’s song selection to be predictable, but not annoying. He says, “there weren’t any huge surprises (but), there weren’t any horrifying ones, either – in contrast with Pandora, which stubbornly insists that “REM Radio” should include massive amounts of John Mayer and Train. Yuck.”

Slacker integrates seamlessly with Apple TV. It was just as easy to listen to Slacker through my television as it was through headphones. It’s also compatible with devices made by SONY, Sonos, Logitech and Acoustic Research, which adds value for subscribers who own one of these accessories.

Free users have to contend with ads and can’t skip backward through tracks, but they can still create stations, skip six songs an hour, and test caching content for a limited time. Listeners who want to subscribe have two choices: Radio Plus and Premium. Both options remove ads, offer unlimited skips and allow users to cache mobile stations. Only Premium users can play entire albums on demand and create personal playlists.

Though much has changed since Elvis Costello swore his allegiance to the “sound salvation” of programmed over-the-air music in his late ‘70s classic “Radio Radio,” there are still plenty of listeners who want to find that late night station whose songs will bring tears to their eyes. The medium may have changed, but the desire to hear the message hasn’t.

Slacker Radios breadth of options gives listeners a new way to chase that elusive feeling. Most users won’t know if they prefer Spotify, Slacker, or Pandora without some firsthand knowledge of the apps.

With Slacker, listeners experience what the app is like without subscribing, which is not true of the others. Slacker has the only optional news and sports breaks too, from ABC and ESPN.  Casual listeners will be fine with the free version, but if Slacker is going to be one’s primary music source, they will want to subscribe for uninterrupted all-day listening.


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Junk Food Takes A Hit With Smash Your Food HD

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Smash Your Food HD (iPad only), an educational game by Food N’ Me packs a big visual wallop. The app was one of a number of educational nutrition-focused applications chosen by First Lady Michelle Obama’s Apps for Healthy Kids contest.

Definitely file this edu-app under “Don’t try this at home.” After creating a profile, player guesses the number of servings of sugar, salt, and fat in common (soda, chips, pizza) and not so common (pork and vegetable egg roll, chili cheese fries) junk foods.

After the player enters their best guess for the number of servings, they pull the red lever and the food gets smashed. Have you ever seen a jelly donut ooze out explosively between two plates of metal? It’s as awesome and disgusting as you might imagine.

After the food is smashed the game compares the player’s guesses to the real number of servings. Oil is spooned by the teaspoon into a cup that starts to overflow around the ninth spoon full. Players are awarded stars as follows: 2 for an exact guess, 1 for a good guess, or 0 if they were way off.

After a player earns enough points they can unlock a “crazy food” or a new level. The crazy foods aren’t all that crazy. If the game includes a corn dog, then the user can unlock four corn dogs at once.

Smash Your Food HD has the right idea, but the game’s execution falls short. First, players who are good at mental math can get nearly every answer correct by tapping on the nutritional label displayed next to the food.

The “competitive” element of the game isn’t very entertaining. It is actually pretty tedious, and it takes away from the game’s message. The app offers kids a chance to watch food being crushed, something they don’t see everyday, and the visual effect is enough put you off corn dogs or hamburger for the foreseeable future.

Most families will be satisfied with the free version of the app, that includes ola, French fries, a jelly doughnut, a cup of noodles and one crazy food.

It’s a small point, but the game’s “noodles” don’t reflect most types of noodles on the market. They are probably Ramen noodles, which have been fried commercially before being packaged. It might give kids the impression that all pasta is high in fat, which it generally isn’t.

Hint: remember the game bases its serving recommendations on intake per meal, not per day or per food item. It’s important to know the difference, were a player to actually try and follow the serving guidelines as issued by the game.

Smash Your Food HD approaches child nutrition from an new direction, and though the game could have been more thoughtfully executed, it still has the potential to make kids pay attention to what they eat, which is a great first step toward a healthier diet.


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The Guitar Collection: George Harrison Brings ‘The Quiet Beatle’ To The iPad

George Harrison fans are to Lennon and McCartney fans what Stones fans are to Beatles fans: smaller in number, but more vehemently devoted. The Guitar Collection: George Harrison (iPad only) by Bandwidth, is a must-own music app for any Harrison fan. Guitar aficionados will also enjoy the app’s presentation of these beautiful, well-loved instruments.

The app shows off Harrison’s guitar collection as never before. The splash screen, which is graced by a picture of Harrison looking ridiculously young, offers users the choice to view the collection, tour the app, or visit the image gallery, video vault, or music library.

Harrison’s son, Dhani, narrates the app tour, suggesting new users begin in the music library, to hear suggested songs to play while browsing the guitar collection.

The music library includes tracks played with the featured guitars, and users can also send them directly to the iPad’s native music app.

The app displays Harrison’s guitars using a simple, clean GUI. Tap the image to get a closer look. Users can also rotate the guitars 360 degrees. While in landscape mode users can access details about a particular guitar by tapping items on the menu on the left, as well as send a post card to a friend, all while listening to clips of the songs Harrison recorded on that particular instrument.

There are also audio clips of Harrison talking about the guitars. This is the collection’s hidden gold mine. Harrison says the guitar’s name, then gives the listener a few bars or an anecdote. These clips are very brief, but they give the user an intimate glimpse of Harrison, his music, and the instruments that he loved.

Switching to portrait mode affords the user a view of the entire instrument. Users can zoom in to learn more about each guitar’s parts at this point as well. If text such as, “The guitar is equipped with a six-way split-saddle bridge” excites you, then this is the app for you.

The image library allows the user to view the photos as a group, rather than accessing them through the collection. Scan the thumbnails or choose one image and then swipe through all the photos at full size. While there is no way to save the images to the iPad camera roll, users can always take a screen shot of a favorite.

The video vault requires an Internet connection to run. It includes clips of Harrison playing the ukulele, as well as Dhani, Conan O’Brien (not just an erstwhile late night host, but also a noted vintage guitar collector) and rockers Josh Homme and Ben Harper, playing and chatting about the guitars included in the app.

Users can also access the music library separately to explore a list of songs organized by the guitar on which they were played. Clips stream from iTunes as previews, unless you already own them, in which case you can just add them to your music library. Unfortunately a number of clips associated with each guitar are not unavailable for preview. If you really want to hear “Dig a Pony,” for example, then pretend to buy the song, and listen to the preview through iTunes from within the app.

The Guitar Collection: George Harrisonis a singular offering that will educate and entertain fans of the Beatles guitarist. Its creation underscores Harrison as guitarist, not just as a Beatle, and reminds all who use it of his musical contribution to 20th century popular culture.

Look Inside The World of Dinosaurs And Learn

Steven Fry was an early (and vocal) iPad adopter — he even has his own app — so his narration of Inside the World of Dinosaurs (iPad-only) by M5859 Studios only adds to this iPad coffee table app’s allure.

There is no shortage of dinosaur-focused iPad apps, yet Inside the World of Dinosaurs enters this crowded field with impressive stats: 60 dinosaurs, 310 page of interactive 3D modeling, plus profiles of important dinosaur excavation sites and biographies of the scientists who unearthed these fascinating relics.

Upon opening the app the user can either choose from the menu bar, or read the instructions and tap their way to the app’s article section. In addition to the articles, Inside the World of Dinosaurs also includes an alphabetized dinosaur encyclopedia, a timeline, and a gallery of renowned Dino Hunters.

The articles contain a wealth of information about the Triassic, Jurassic, and Cretaceous periods while also highlighting geographic sites such as the Isle of Wight’s “Dinosaur Island” that have yielded important fossils. The app’s articles also includes specific coverage of dinosaur eggs, dinosaur tails, and the über-reptiles’ diets. The series of articles concludes by hitting the high points of the history of dinosaur excavation including the Bone Wars.

Users can view dinosaur profiles either alphabetically through the index or by tapping the Triassic, Jursassic, or Cretaceous buttons on the menu. The included dinosaurs are animated and users can interact with many of the graphics via touch gestures. 

Fry’s narration can be played fluidly with auto page turns, or paused and restarted as the user wishes. At any time the user can tap the Timeline button. The narration will continue and the app allows the user to return to their previous place.

Although the app’s GUI is both clever and easy to manage, the information provided is vast. It may not be the best choice for an dinosaur-obsessed first grader, but the app’s offerings should be more than sufficient for the needs of most upper-elementary and secondary school students or curious adults.

The narration also has a tendency to repeat the same facts on two related pages, so while this has the benefit of reinforcing what the reader has just read, it can also feel redundant. Other caveats include the app’s size — it will eat up nearly a GB of space — and its price. However, as with most coffee table-style iPad apps, the app still costs considerably less than a comparable print book, while including all of the bells and whistles that only iOS can offer. For all but the youngest of users Inside the World of Dinosaurs is comprehensive and elucidating.


Get The Facts With Britannica Kids: US Presidents

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Most kids in the US are curious about their country’s presidents, especially during an election year. As a child I had a set of presidential stamps I arranged in a booklet, which offered little more than a pictorial list, yet it still fascinated me. For today’s children there is Britannica Kids: US Presidents, Medl Mobl’s universal app, which is a portable encyclopedia of presidential facts.

The app is an interactive guide to the 44 men who have held the office of President of the United States. It does not attempt to be comprehensive, but it makes learning about the names of the US presidents and the dates they served in office easy.

Britannica Kids: US Presidents opens to display a photo of President Obama, while playing “Hail to the Chief.” The user may choose to explore the app’s “Did You Know” section, read through a how to guide, or just tap “Get Started” to begin.

The app’s main screen includes a portrait or photo of all of the US presidents from Washington to Obama with their dates of service beneath each. The first president depicted without a powdered wig was William Henry Harrison, who also has the dubious distinction of being the first president to die in office.

The user can navigate through the presidents in order, using a swipe gesture, or tap the back tab to return to the main screen.

Britannica Kids: US Presidents pronounces the name of each president. There are four buttons next to each portrait: Vice President, First Lady, Birthday, and Fun Facts. Audio accompanies each of these, so kids can use the app before they even know how to read.

In addition to the main section, the user can explore the “Did You Know” section, learn all the words to “Hail to the Chief” or take a quiz about the presidents.

Britannica Kids: US Presidents‘ concise presentation does not attempt to offer analysis or present nuanced versions of US presidential history. It serves as a solid start point for a child to begin learning about the history of the United States. The app may even appeal to some adults, particularly anyone who didn’t grow up learning about the presidents in school.

The developers might want to retitle “Fun Facts” to “Key Facts” as many of the facts in that section such as Kennedy’s assassination and Nixon’s resignation are rather sobering, and not fun at all.

Britannica Kids: US Presidents contextualizes history without overwhelming kids with too many facts. Children may hear President Obama referred to as the 44th President of the United States, but the phrase has more meaning once they see who preceded him.


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Revamped Heart Pro III: Impressive iPad Anatomy

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Developer 3D4Medical recently overhauled its Heart Pro app for iPad. The new app, Heart Pro III (iPad only) offers seemingly endless ways to study the anatomy of this all-important organ. The revamped version of Heart Pro III now offers a shiny new GUI and quiz format, as well as graphical hints, an enhanced pins. Users may now also use new graphical hints, a pen tool, and sound clips.

Heart Pro III allows the user to see the a photorealistic 3D depiction of the human heart from nearly every angle, and access important notes about cardio-physiology through simple gesture controls. The app makes it easy to zoom, swipe, and even cut through the digital tissue to see the heart as most never have before. These views are layered which allows the user to choose to focus on veins, arteries, and tissue, or conduction nerves.

Most 3D4Medical apps use pins to mark important features. Heart Pro III improves pins by adding media (generally textbook-like views of the feature) and public notes for the pin.

The public notes section allows anyone with an account to share notes with other users. Users can also add their own private notes to a pin, as well as adding new pins. To turn off individual pins, or all pins, just visit the app’s settings.

Heart Pro III now includes animations. Choose the video for “posterior beating heart” and the digital heart images beats right before your eyes. These videos integrate seamlessly into the app, so the user can see a video of an ischemic stroke (for example) without ever leaving the app. Most of the videos feature the anterior view of the heart, and though one needs to buy the premium subscription to unlock all of the videos, there were some number included with the base price.

Heart Pro III is a bit pricey for the layperson at $17.99 (plus an additional$19.99 to unlock the premium videos). It is, however, an app that medical students, physicians, and those in the allied health professions will want to add to their arsenal.


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Friendship Is The Focus Of Middle School Confidential 2

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Many children find the transition from child to tween to adolescent difficult. Many adults don’t remember this time fondly. No one peeks in middle school. Middle School Confidential 2: Real Friends vs. the Other Kind, Electric Eggplant’s second graphic novel app tries to offer concrete suggestions about behavior that aim to make this confusing time in a kid’s life just a bit easier.

The story follows 7th grade students Jack, Jen, Chris, Abby, Mateo, and Michelle through situations as thorny as they are familiar. Quizzes with titles such as “Do YOU make snap decisions?” are interspersed throughout the app, to get the reader thinking about what they just read. The illustrations are engaging and the app’s UI is seamless.

Small details, such as the opening splash screen and the quiet soundtrack enhance the story and make reading it more enjoyable. As the story begins, the reader has the option to tap on the “Who Are We?” button to learn more about each kid’s identity.

Tone is critical to any work like Middle School Confidential 2, which has a message. The storytelling gets a bit heavy-handed at times. For example, the kids in the story don’t speak like real kids. In chapter 1 Michelle ask, “Probing question! How come we’ve stayed friends so long?” At the beginning of chapter 5 Monique says, “Abby, you journal? Me, too! We should totally hang out.”

However, there are probably some kids who feel so overwhelmed by middle school that the app’s very clear approach – complete with definite answers to otherwise confounding questions — might be a life raft for a student who doesn’t feel comfortable talking to adults or even their friends about these issues.

Even if a child reads the book and dismisses it, the ideas from the book might still plant a seed to guide the child. If every kid in that child’s life is acting in a disappointing manner, then seeing the characters model good choices gives the kid another option


Self-help books, like Middle School Confidential 2, are not a panacea but encouraging a child to read this book has the potential to help some kids.

The book treads the line between being a story that adults love for its wholesome good intentions, but kids can see right through. It’s not Judy Blume. Blume’s books were so successful because she tackled issues through the lens of fiction, following the “show don’t tell” directive that every writer learns. Middle School Confidential 2: Real Friends vs. the Other Kind has the right idea, but its message-driven approach may not appeal to all.


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Art Authority For iPad Is Encyclopedic And Beautiful – Win PromoCode With Comment Or Tweet

For less than the cost of one museum admission ticket, Art Authority for iPad by Open Door Networks (sold separately for iPhone and Pod touch for $4.99) is a portable art survey course that fits in your handbag (or man bag, as the case may be). Named as Best Reference App in Apple’s App Store Rewind for 2010 and 2011, this app has beauty and brains.

Thanks to a recent update, users can search for “art like this” and “art near me” within the app. The art like this function is particularly addictive, and resulted in a new, and very enjoyable way, to peruse the application. The search feature has been enhanced so users can search a particular artist’s work for areas of interest. Users running iOS5 can also tweet from within the app.

Although the app’s GUI is a breeze to negotiate, Art Authority also includes a robust tutorial that clearly explains the many different ways to use this application. The user can toggle between wall view and slideshow view while exploring the app.

Each room corresponds to a period in art history: early, Renaissance, Baroque, Romantic, Impressionist, Modern, Contemporary and American rooms. Starting with the room’s overview gives the user information about the room, allows them to view the major works in the collect, shuffle the artwork when viewing, and, my personal favorite, see a timeline of the period. Some rooms offer multiple timelines, which shed new light on ways to view the relationship between an artist and his cohort of creators.

The art in each room’s subcategories is organized by artist. Users can also tap to see an alphabetical list of all the artists in a room.

Each work is displayed along with its relevant biographical information, as well as the art’s current location. There are hyperlinks throughout the app that open Wikipedia, making it easy for the user to learn more about a particular artist or museum.

With a single tap users can easily see the entire body of work that the app has for a particular artist. Art Authority lets users pair music housed on their iPad with any slideshow. While the app requires a Wi-Fi connection to view the art in its entirety, previously viewed art is accessible offline.

The apps shortcomings are few, and don’t hinder the app’s overall utility. It took a long time for the collection to load on to the iPad after its first installation. There is an option enable audio commentary from Ken Burns, though I could never get it to work. Also, the search feature often turned up no hits. For example, searching “flower” on Georgia O’Keefe turned up no paintings.

Art Authority for iPad is certain to please art fans and novices alike with its easy-to-use GUI and solid representation of artists and genres.


Want a promo code? To win a copy of Art Authority for iPad, leave a comment here, or you can tweet or retweet this review. Whichever you choose you will be entered into a random drawing. You earn one entry for each method so each contestant can earn up two. Contest Closes Wednesday February 15 at 11:59 pm PST. Good luck!

Do Not Miss Shakespeare in Bits: Hamlet On iOS Or PC And Mac – Win PromoCode With Comment Or Tweet

Shakespeare in Bits: Hamlet iPad Edition by MindConnex, (sold separately for iPhone and PC/Mac) is the fourth in the developer’s series of iOS apps whose goal is to make Shakespeare’s work more accessible. Hamlet joins Romeo and Juliet, Midsummer Night’s Dream, and MacBeth. All of the Shakespeare in Bits apps entertain as they educate, offering students or curious readers a way to break down Shakespeare’s often difficult and obtuse language.

Shakespeare in Bits: Hamlet includes the entire play without abridgement. The app pairs the plays text with animated sections, which though they may be cartoon-like are in no way childish.

The narration and staging of the play through the animation is well thought out. All 14 of the talented voice actors draw in the listener, while the animators make smart choices about staging the play. For example, in Act III, scene iv, which takes place in Queen Gertrude’s chambers, as Hamlet is criticizing his mother, the Queen, for her marriage to Claudius. Hamlet directs Gertrude to look at two pictures: one of Claudius and one of her recently dead husband, Hamlet’s father. As viewers we see Getrude’s face reflected in the vanity mirror below. This helps explain the mood of the scene as we see a nervous-eyed Gertrude caught between the two photos of the brothers.

That sort of attention to detail will please teachers and film buffs, but Shakespeare in Bits: Hamlet is full of tools that aid the more reluctant reader as well. App users can choose to have subtitles over the animation or follow along with text on the side. Unfamiliar words toggle simply (and rather brilliantly) to change magically into more familiar phrases with the tap of a finger.

Those resources will help most readers follow along more comfortably, but the app also includes some resources to explain the play’s overarching themes, imagery, language and quotes.

The reader also has access to notes on each section, a section synopsis, and a place to write one’s own notes. The app also includes interactive margin notes that shed light on themes, ask probing questions (i.e. Why do you think Hamlet has a negative attitude toward marriage?), and reveals historical references that many readers would be likely to miss.

Shakespeare in Bits: Hamlet goes further and includes a profile of each character plus a relationship map that will help keep all the numerous characters straight.

MindConnex created Shakespeare in Bits: Hamlet with the same scholarship and attention to detail that has made their previous releases so impressive. The Shakespeare in Bits series splits the difference between relying on Cliff’s Notes and trying to conquer the Bard alone.

To learn more about the way Shakespeare in Bits works, find out how to get it for your school or homeschool association and for an in-depth interview with CEO and found of MindConnex, please see Lisa’s article on appolicious here.


Want a promo code? To win a copy of Shakespeare in Bits: Hamlet, leave a comment here, or you can tweet or retweet this review. Whichever you choose you will be entered into a random drawing. You earn one entry for each method so each contestant can earn up two. Contest Closes Wednesday February 8 at 11:59 pm PST. Good luck!