The animations for Embryology at a Glance that Steve Atherton has been creating have started going up on YouTube. We'll keep working on them and keep adding to the channel. The animations are intended to support the text and illustrations in the textbook. Go and have a look:
I'm building up in training towards the TTG Gloucester Triathlon at the end of May, which will be a training race itself, and then the Pembrokeshire Coast Triathlon at Broad Haven at the end of June. That race will also be the Welsh Championships for that distance, and apparently the club champs. I haven't had a crack at the Cardiff Triathlon club championships for years. The European Championships in Lisbon are in May this year, on the same weekend as Kim's birthday, so I'm skipping that. I can't afford to enter the World Championships, and there has been no sign of XTERRA UK in 2016 so that's died a death. Which sucks, because that's an awesome race. So after Broad Haven, what do I do?
In 2017 the European Triathlon Championships have been split between Dusseldorf for the sprint distance and Kitzbuhel for the standard distance, so if most of my buddies race the sprint distance and I go to Austria on my own, what's the point? Triathlon is partly about competition but largely about friends and experiences, so I'm not motivated to spend the latter half of this race season training to qualify for international 2017 races. Maybe I'll look out for some other multisport events that catch my eye, like the ÖTILLÖ Swimrun series or the OMM... I'll need a partner for those.
The second edition of Embryology at a Glance will be on sale as a paperback from 20th May, and I think digital copies are available in some areas now. We've added a few chapters on stem cells, cell signalling and antenatal screening with the usual full page of illustrations beside a full page of fairly brief text.
The big news with this book will be the new animations. We've been working with 3D animation genius Steve Atherton to produce animations of some of the key embryological processes in some of the chapters. These animations take time to produce and we'll release a collection with the book and continue to add to that collection over time. We've been sharing these with some people for a little while and getting thumbs up, so we're looking forward to sharing them more widely.
The other news is that these videos will be available through augmented reality. Instead of having to go to a website every time you want to look at an animation you'll be able to access them in a number of ways, and one of which will be through the free Aurasma app on your smartphone or tablet. You'll need to sign up and follow the Embryology at a Glance account, but after that you'll just have to show an illustration in the book to your phone and it will grab the video and overlay it over the textbook automatically. More on that soon.
I thought I should update you guys on what I've been doing with the Daily Anatomy app since its release in January, and what I'm planning to do.
My main job has been to write batches of new questions and add them to the ever growing pool of questions that the app draws from each day. We have seem some questions repeated, and we've seen some interesting sequential questions on the same topic, and some similar questions asked, but these are all chosen at random. The bigger the pool, the lower the chance of seeing the same question again. Writing good quality, accurate questions with a helpful feedback description is a lot of work (and a big part of my other job!) and this is why this is a paid app - I need motivation to keep writing these things.
With some of my beta testers we've listed plans for adding achievements to the app, to reward users for answering a number of questions correctly for each system and region, for example, among others. I've also written some code to note your longest correct question answering streak and I'll add a second leaderboard so you can compete on this front too.
The Daily Anatomy app went live on the Apple App Store in January, and the leaderboard is slowly filling up with students. I'll be adding batches of questions regularly so the bank will keep getting bigger, and the daily question is chosen at random.
Hopefully people will find it fun, challenging and helpful!
I've started work on an Android version but as I'm creating these in my spare time (and how much spare time does an academic ever really have?) it will take a while to get an early version on the Google Play Store.
I have plans for updates to the Daily Anatomy app that I hope to release during the year, and have also begun developing ideas for another app, also for medical students but not anatomy related...
Kim and I have been working on a final icon for the app, and the app itself is now at a build release that I'm sending out to testers. I'll see what testing brings over the next week or so, and if all is good the next stage will be submission to the app store. As the new submissions section closes over Christmas the app may be come available in January.
This year I've been working on a new iPhone app, and it's getting close to being ready for release. This is the Daily Anatomy app, and it will present a randomly selected anatomy multiple choice question every day. Each answer includes a description about why the correct answer is correct, with some associated anatomy tidbits.
Every correct answer earns 10 points, and your score is collected over time, along with the number of days played, your run streak (how many questions you get correct in a row), and a bunch of data about the system and region of anatomy associated with the question. There's a high score Game Centre Leaderboard, and your own question performance data can be viewed historically to give you an idea about your strengths and weaknesses in anatomical knowledge. That data is only visible to the user.
What happened? I was happily looking forward to the end of the triathlon season, followed by a whopping increase in gaming time, doughnut eating, lazing around, and probably some sleep too, and then XTERRA happened. After a summer of struggling to train consistently, mental fatigue (and a whole load of physical fatigue), and thick with work I'm now keen as hell to race more XTERRA, to learn what I'm missing in my MTB XC skills, to try out tubeless, and to tweak my race bike for mud (and any other condition we might get). My legs tell me that I'm not as fit as I thought I was, and that I need to do a whole bunch of different stuff so that next time I'll be better prepared. This is great! I'm keen! I'm enthusiastic! I want more! Oh wait, my last race of the season is at Bala on Sunday.
I had a lovely swim. There were no nerves before the start whatsoever, as I stood around chatting to Jamie, a graduate of our medicine programme in Swansea and now a working doctor that I hadn't seen for a while. The swim in Vachery pond in XTERRA England is always nice and relaxed for some reason. My race plan was to swim easy (which isn't really "easy" but at a pace that saves my shoulders for later work), bike smooth and then run. I.e. RUN! Like someone's chasing you. Which they were. Over large ditches, through bogs and over fallen oaks. I would also be doing some chasing. Hunting.
It's almost the end of August, the end of the summer holidays, the kids are back to school next week and we get our new first year medical students too. It's also my final (3rd?) attempt to peak my fitness for triathlon in 2015, which is probably tougher mentally than physically. I got it right the first time for the Welsh Champs, and felt like I did a pretty good job of recovering, training hard, and recovering again in the 3 week period between that race and the European Champs in Geneva. My performance there was pretty good, coming out of the swim with the winner in my age group, and biking a pretty good effort. I had a strategy to try to slow the raising of my core body temperature which turned out to be important as I picked up a bunch of places on the run. Ultimately the heat got to me and I went bang on the run with about 800m to go, but I've got some ideas of how I can prepare myself physiologically for future hot races. I wonder if I could have pushed the middle lap of the run harder, after hurting a lot on the first lap. Statistically the best part of my race was the swim. That's never happened before. Maybe I'm getting somewhere in the water at last!
Tomorrow we're off to XTERRA England in the Vachery Estate in Surrey for another camping weekend. I fixed the tent poles last night and bought some huge pegs after getting battered by winds in North Wales. XTERRA was great fun last year, for me and the family. The course is great, and it has a more relaxed feel with a big emphasis on fun. And beer. I wonder if it will be different this year, with a stronger field as it's also the European XTERRA Champs this year. My biking legs have been good, I've done hardly any swimming, and my running legs are falling off but I'll give it a good crack!