One of my favourite films as a kid was Innerspace (showing my age here!) This comedy starring Dennis Quiad and Martin Short, released in 1987 and had the unique hook of a test pilot (Quad) being miniaturised and accidentally implanted into a bumbling clerk (Short.)
For posterity, here's the original trailer:
It's now 30 years later and though we aren't yet able to experience something like Innerspace for real, we can explore the insides of the human body using VR! In fact there are actually a rangeof apps that take you inside the body available across various platforms. Below I've outlined five that encompass pretty much any platform you might be using.
1. The Body VR: Journey Inside A Cell
This experience on the Vive is the closest to Innerspace you'll get right now and is seriously impressive. The experience allows you to travel through the bloodstream and teaches you how blood cells spread oxygen . After this you actually enter a cell and learn how the organelles work together to fight deadly viruses. The experience is guided and the narration helps you understand exactly what you are seeing.
I had actually planned for The Body VR to be part of my initial Vive Trials videos from JESS Dubai (alongside The Psychology of The Plank, The Tilt Brush trial and The Titanic VR experience) and even recruited a Sixth Form biology student to test it out. Unfortunately I lost the interview footage I recorded that showed him using the app and then the interview where he reflected on the experience. Without it, the screencast from within the app didn't have the same impact. I may well recreate this with some other students in the new school year.
The Body VR now have another app on the way that journeys through the colon. What's interesting to note is that the developers are not only aiming their apps at students but also actual patient: "Our objective is to use a virtual reality demonstration to improve patient education and compliance with bowel prep, thereby reducing inadequate bowel preparation and improving the adenoma detection rate."
Now there's one practical, meaningful application of VR! Take a look at some early footage they shared:
Find out more about The Body VR apps here.
2. Life Noggin: What Happens Inside Your Body?
Want an Innerspace type experience but don't have a Vive? Life Noggin have you covered. This excellent company produce educational animations and have a 360 one that traverses the inside of the body! Simply share the link to students and have them open on a mobile device/ with a cardboard style headset! You can see the whole thing below:
I highly recommend checking out the rest of Life Noggin's content on YouTube (find it here) They have a wide range of topics covered and answer a lot of big questions that are sure to engage students and inspire investigations in the classroom.
3. Anatomyou VR
This mobile app includes a range of internal systems to view in VR including the female reproductive system, the urinary system and the nose/throat. Though it's a guided experience, you are able to control what is happening by pausing and changing the speed.
The app is free but uses an in-app purchase approach wherein most of the systems include free routes with the option to extend by purchasing packages of system routes. This extends the usefulness of the app into genuine medical training. It's definitely worth a look for higher level biology students. Find out more about it here.
4. InMind VR
This one is a little different as it takes you inside the human brain. It definitely has the Innerspace vibe right from the start though as you enter through the pupil of an eye...
InMind is a gamified experience with the user traversing the brain and looking for misfiring neurons that are affecting its functionality and essentially causing mental disorders. It's one of those apps that needs to be experienced to be fully appreciated!
InMind is available for free on everything from the Vive and Oculus to the iPhone and Android devices.
Before moving on, I just want to share a photo. This pic is from January 2015 and is one of the earliest pictures I have of a student of mine using my very first headset. Take a look at the screen behind him - recognise the app?
You can learn more about InMind VR here.
5. Unimersiv: A Journey into the Brain
This is another brain-centric journey inside the body, available via the Unimersiv app on Oculus Rift and Gear VR. Since I don't use or own either or these devices, I can't say I've tried this one but I know that Unimersiv always have incredibly high quality output and this clip looks stunning!
The experience aims to teach you about how the brain works as you learn more about the function of things like the cerebellum, brainstem and more. Learn more about the app here.