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)

 

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