Google Body: A "Maps" Effect for the Health field?

Google Earth and Google Maps: a new way of learning.

by Leandro Agrò

Google Body: A "Maps" Effect for the Health field?
Google Body: A "Maps" Effect for the Health field?

What is Google Body?

Gizmodo wrote: Google’s already taken you across the globe, down to the bottom of the ocean, and out to the mountain of Mars. It’s been a vaguely educational journey! Their next frontier: the human body, with Google Body Browser.

It's a web application that - thanks to technology WebGL, or better: a 3D that works inside a browser and without a plugin - gives the opportunity to visualize a human body, rotate, zooming and identify each organ, bones or vein navigating through the anatomic layers such as: muscles, organs, bones and circulatory system.

Google Body, has been designed as an educational tool. It represents a good start but not a final product, or a professional solution in the health field.

At the same time the 3D tool represents the start for something potentially extraordinary and reminds me the time when keyhole appeared on the net and then acquired by Google became Google Earth.

1. Functioning through direct manipulation
2.Continuous experience
3.Open source systems

Direct manipulation and continuous experience are techniques that through shifting or through a direct click in the 3D content gives you the opportunity to explore it without having the ”blank” moments of page recharging, clicking through buttons and interfaces that – mediating- move away the content from the user.

All these different possibilities the user has in looking at a video or listening to a lecture make the content very interesting and intriguing.

The mix between the Power of 3D that can be manipulated and the medical images on give the possibility to realize a credible model, detailed labelling and transparency.

Google body browser- Femur

The 3D has always been a sector linked to the proprietary formats where also the simple software of translation is commercial. The use of WebGL is really promising, becoming a standard because it makes the contents immediately portable. A good timing, given the explosion of devices’ biodiversity, nowadays far away from the past times of PC centred during which the proprietary technologies flourished.

WebGL is potentially perfect for tablets and mobile in general and it is ready to make the human body navigable as it already does for the maps: a tool for learning!

Google Body is a Beta, we have still to understand if it can have a real utility, nevertheless the opportunities seem to be very interesting. The system is an open source such as Google Earth and for sure many specific medical applications will grow up.

It is easy to imagine a future connection between ready to wear or domestic sensors as per diagnostic or prevention scopes and the 3D system, or simply the connection between Google Earth and /or a different case history including general info on the patient so that you can visualize possible pathology on a 3D personalized system.

We can say that – while the planet is training to use avatar just to play and “gamification” is a trend – the health sector is looking for its own enabling technologies. We have only to decide how much importance we would like to give to the free solutions of Google, rather than to home made or third parties alternatives.

In the end the true news is that Google Body has demonstrated that WebGL could be what we are looking for. The browsers from Chrome to Firefox 4 are able to be a window on the human body.


Note (dec 2010): Google founder Larry Page has affirmed that one of the main scopes of his searching engine is that to give detailed info on health. The second more clicked online word is “heart” in different languages and the 80% of the users looks for info on health... Moreover 29% of young people aged between 19 and 29 use the web through their mobile for health info. Here it is the version of Google Body for smartphone Android:

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