Man flies like a bird with help of Wii controllers and Android phone (Yeah, right)


It sounds too good to be true: A Dutch engineer named Jarno Smeets has released a video (below), which appears to show him flying like a bird, using little more than the power of his arms to achieve liftoff. The video has quickly spread around the Web in true viral fashion, with more than 850,000 views on YouTube, and the project has been reported as real by publications like Wired and Time magazine. But a quick look at the comments sections shows that the public isn’t buying it.

Smeets’ suspicious winged contraption, known as the “Human Bird Wings project,” was built using kite fabric, carbon windsurf masts, Turnigy motors, and the accelerometers from Wii controllers and an HTC Wildfire S smartphone. According to his press release, the unique setup “allowed [Smeets] to move his arms freely without any risk of breaking them.” Smeets says the design, which took eight moths to perfect, was inspired by the work of his grandfather and Leonardo DaVinci.

Watching the video, it’s nearly impossible not to get excited. Human-powered flight — actual flight, not gliding — has been an unreachable dream for probably as long as humans have had imaginations. It’s also impossible not to suspect that the whole thing is a giant marketing gimmick. Interestingly, however, a few noteworthy sources (like “Mythbusters'” Jamie Hyneman) have said that the alleged feat is physically possible (tho improbable), and there is no evidence so far that the video was made using CGI. That of course doesn’t confirm that Smeets really flapped his wings and took off. But it does narrow the chances that we’re all being played for fools.

After Wired covered the story straight, the publication’s resident science expert, Rhett Allain, analyzed the video using motion-tracking software. His conclusion: “Let me just say that there is nothing in this video that indicates it must be a fake.”

That said, a number of pilots and hang gliding experts tell Gizmodo that the video is most certainly fake, since the telltale signs that Smeets is actually flying (like the fabric in the wings going taut) are entirely absent. Moreover, it’s appears that Smeets is lying about something — his employment history. Belgian website Humo reports that two of the places Smeets claims on his LinkedIn profile to have worked — Philips Design and Paliton Engineering — both denied that he was ever employed there. Another damning detail is that, since the video came out, Smeets has refused to give any interviews (at least as far as we can tell). Indeed, he never responded to our email, sent out yesterday, asking about the video.

Obviously, this one is still, ahem, up in the air. And regardless of whether this is real or simply a very fantastic example of viral marketing, it’s still quite an achievement.

Watch the video below:

UPDATE: A reader just clued us into this video (below), in which visual effects artist Daniel Lang “debunks” Smeets’ allegedly historic flight. In two instances, Lang says he sees evidence that the flight video (above) is simply very well executed CGI. While we are definitely skeptical, we’re not 100 percent sure that this is conclusive evidence of a hoax, per se, but it’s certainly more believable than a guy flying like a bird with some homemade contrivance.

Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: camera with A.I. director, robot arm assistant

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!

The best PS3 games of all time

Choosing the right PlayStation 3 game can be a conundrum, especially when there are nearly 1,500 titles to choose from. Thankfully, we've rounded up the best games to have ever made it to the platform.
Home Theater

How to wall mount a TV: Tips and tricks to cut down on frustration

This how-to guide includes a video on how to wall mount a TV, along with other tips and tricks about the process. Step by step, we'll take you through what you have to do to successfully get your TV on your wall.
Movies & TV

'Prime'-time TV: Here are the best shows on Amazon Prime right now

There's more to Amazon Prime than free two-day shipping, including access to a number of phenomenal shows at no extra cost. To make the sifting easier, here are our favorite shows currently streaming on Amazon Prime.
Emerging Tech

‘Tech vest’ prevents Amazon workers from colliding with robot co-workers

Amazon workers at its fulfillment centers are using "tech vests" to help protect them from collisions with their robot co-workers. The robots already have obstacle avoidance sensors, but the belt offers another layer of safety.
Emerging Tech

3D printers are finally affordable. Here are the best models under $500

3D printer prices have dropped dramatically over the past few years, but just because something is cheap doesn’t mean it’s worth buying. Here, we’ve rounded up all the cheap 3D printers that are actually worth spending your money on.

T-Mobile 5G rollout: Here is everything you need to know

2019 will be a huge year for T-Mobile. Not only is a merger with Sprint likely, but T-Mobile is also in the midst of building out its next-generation mobile service. Here's everything you need to know about the T-Mobile 5G rollout.
Emerging Tech

ANYmal dog robot can get back on its feet when someone pushes it over

Roboticists at ETH Zurich have demonstrated how their ANYmal four-legged robot is capable of taking a kicking and keeping on walking -- or getting back to its feet if it's pushed over.
Emerging Tech

A.I. finds non-infringing ways to copy drugs pharma spends billions developing

Researchers have demonstrated an artificial intelligence which can find new methods for producing existing pharmaceuticals in a way that doesn’t infringe on existing patents. Here's how.
Emerging Tech

Coinstar machines will let you swap cash for Bitcoin at your local grocery store

Coinstar, the company which owns the coin exchange machines found at grocery stores and elsewhere, will soon let you easily buy Bitcoin with your cash money. Here's how it will work.
Emerging Tech

Facebook hasn’t given up on the idea of building an internet drone

Facebook's efforts to provide internet connectivity from the skies using solar-powered drones suffered a blow last year when the company abandoned its "Aquila" drone project. But the company clearly hasn't given up on the idea.
Emerging Tech

World’s biggest fleet of campus delivery robots now transporting student meals

The world’s largest fleet of delivery robots on a university campus is coming to Fairfax County, Virginia’s George Mason University. Here's how the ordering and delivery process plays out.

Smart luggage does it all with wireless charger, built-in scale, GPS tracking

The SkyValet smart luggage, currently being funded on Kickstarter, offers solutions to many common travel struggles. With SkyValet, you no longer need separate portable chargers, a scale to weigh your bag, a lock, or a tracking device. It's…
Emerging Tech

The CRISPR baby saga continues as China confirms second gene-edited pregnancy

China’s official Xinhua news agency has confirmed that a second woman has become pregnant as part of a controversial experiment to create the world’s first genetically edited babies.