Google has answered the call of students of anatomy who would find something like the Autopsy Table or the Visualization Table a useful addition to the educational arsenal, but who can't afford the huge price tag. Although still very much in the experimental stage, the Body Browser allows users to slice through layers of skin and tissue of a three dimensional model of a human body using virtual knives, and explore the various systems that make us tick.
Offered as a showcase for WebGL technology, which allows a browser to render 3D graphics without the need for plugins, the Body Browser currently resides with Google Labs. Anyone who has a WebGL-enabled browser – such as the very latest builds of Chrome and Firefox for Windows and Safari for Mac – should be able to peel back various layers, zoom in and out, and search for specific body parts in much the same way as you would look for a town or region in Google Maps.
As you can see from the gallery, I used Google's Chrome to slice and search my way through a number of inner body locations, spinning the virtual model on its horizontal axis. There's a search box on the right if you're looking for something specific, and the navigation bar to the left gives you control over the virtual knife. In one mode, moving a slider up and down the scale removes skin, bone, organs, and so on from the model. In another, each section is given its own slider to allow subtle combinations of bone, circulation, nerves and muscle to be revealed.
This is an impressive HTML5 and WebGL outing, and I for one am looking forward to following its development. Google Labs is asking for feature suggestions and will be bringing a male model to the platform in the near future, not that it makes much difference as it stands. Students of the human body will currently have to try and curb any desire to reveal any revealing parts, if you know what I mean.