In the last few years, 3D has moved beyond movie theaters and flat screen TVs to handheld and tablet devices. These five mobile applications all use the third dimension for different ends, from exploring entire cities to physical projects produced by 3D printers to interactive models of the human anatomy.
Google Earth (Free)
The Google Earth mobile app is more than just a handy travel companion. In a classroom setting, students can explore 3D recreations of major cities, including Rome, Boston, and many others. If a student wants to examine a particular city, Google Earth provides a list of landmarks. When a user taps on an institution or landmark the app plays a 3D animation from a 360 degree birds-eye view that displays notable facts in the top left corner of the screen. This mapping app is for teachers who have access to both the latest iPad and a LED projector, as it can augment geography lessons or further the exploration of other cultures.
Developed by MakerBot, Thingiverse is an online gallery forum that is beneficial to students learning about 3D modeling or whose school owns a 3D printer. Once users register, they are free to explore 3D creations–including household items like functioning lamps, model rockets, smartphone cases–under Newest, Featured, Popular, and Made. These categories are constantly updated. If your school has access to a 3D printer, classrooms can upload photos with descriptions of their best products.
123D Catch (Free)
123D Catch, one in a suite of content creation and editing apps from Autodesk, lets students take pictures of the everyday world. Similar in presentation to Thingiverse, users can start a new capture, requiring them to take around 20-30 photos of their subject from 360 degrees. Once complete, the app combines all of the photos into a 3D rendering. The app’s forum features some excellent pieces including famous statues and buildings, food, user-made sculptures and even people!
BioDigital Human (Free)
This scientific application presents human anatomy in striking detail. The free version offers interactive 3D models of the musculoskeletal system, heart, and a cross section of the eye. Students simply tap on the anatomical part they want to learn about and the app displays the name and description, often fetched from Wikipedia. What separates BioDigital Human from other anatomy apps is the toolbar, which features quizzes, search, views for x-ray and isolating individual parts, drawing for labeling the models in real-time, and a virtual surgical knife for dissection! Using the free version, students can download up to five additional anatomical models. One year of the premium app ranges from $19.99 to $47.99.
The Who (Free)
In elementary through high school, music history can be limited to classical composers and jazz. As of mid-November, legendary rock ensemble The Who have a mobile app that offers a 3D journey through the band’s history, which spans five decades. Set up like a museum, The Who app employs swipe controls that show exhibits on the band’s albums, including 30 second song previews, archival images, and pop-up quotes from Roger Daltrey and Pete Townsend. The app syncs with iTunes, Spotify, Rdio, or Deezer with songs, concert tickets, merch, and more available for purchase. If you have iOS 8, make sure Family Sharing is on to avoid teenagers going on a spending spree.