Dutchman flies like a bird with homemade wings?

Mechanical engineer claims to have created his own functioning bird wings. But as always with this sort of thing, the question stands: Is it for real?

Editors' note, March 22 at 1:14 p.m. PT: It seems the skeptics may have been right on this one. Gizmodo is now reporting that the purported birdman confessed on Dutch TV that this was indeed a hoax. Our original story follows, with some earlier updates.

If Red Bull doesn't actually give you wings, maybe this guy can.

Dutch mechanical engineer Jarno Smeets recently posted a video of what he says was his first successful flight with his homemade bird wings. Smeet's efforts take cloud computing to a (literally) whole new level, as the wings purportedly rely on an Android-powered HTC Wildfire S smartphone to process arm acceleration and compute the motor output.

The phone is connected to a microcontroller that is, in turn, connected to a Nintendo Wii Remote to measure acceleration and other flight parameters.

According to his project site, Smeets took this project on as part of a lifelong interest in flight. He developed initial 3D visualizations of his bird wing design, then started tinkering with his kiteboard kite and a number of consumer electronics.

Admittedly, this all sounds kind of nuts, but Smeets has at least documented his work on the wings over an eight-month period, so if it's a fake, it's a darn good one.

Update March 22 at 5:03 a.m. PT: The skeptics are mounting their counteroffensive. Gizmodo, for instance, reports that "there's no consensus, but George Lucas' CGI masterminds say it's a big avian hoax." And Wired, digging into both the technical aspects of the claim as well as Smeet's background, argues that the "bird-man's resume doesn't check out."

Update March 22 at 11:56 a.m. PT: Our sister site SmartPlanet bagged an e-mail interview with Smeets, who says he doesn't need to "prove anything."

(Via Gizmodo)

About the author

Dave Rosenberg has more than 15 years of technology and marketing experience that spans from Bell Labs to startup IPOs to open-source and cloud software companies. He is CEO and founder of Nodeable, co-founder of MuleSoft, and managing director for Hardy Way. He is an adviser to DataStax, IT Database, and Puppet Labs.

 

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