If you haven’t neglected your classical education, you’ve surely heard of the legend of Daedalus and Icarus, who escaped their island prison by building wings out of feathers and wax. Things didn’t end up so well for Icarus, but one Dutch man seems to have had the same dream. Jarno Smeets is a mechanical engineer who’s spent the lat eight months building his very own set of “Human Birdwings” capable of independent flight. The contraption makes use of an HTC Wildfire S and a Wii Remote to translate the “flapping” motion of his arms to the wings themselves.
The apparatus isn’t technically human-powered, it just translates Smeets’ arm motions to a set of motors and servos that flap the wings for him. The Wii Remote measures acceleration and other factors and is presumably connected via Bluetooth, though why he couldn’t simply use the one already in the phone is a mystery. The “flight” isn’t much more than a few hundred meters and perhaps 20 meters in the air at its highest point, but that’s still a pretty impressive achievement. Insert your own “Flying Dutchman” joke here.
Check out the video below:
Doubters have called the video fake, and it’s easy to see why – amateur cameras, a seemingly unbelievable achievement, and lots of media coverage would make for a great viral program. But it’s been covered and investigated by various European press without any serious evidence of forgery. The Mythbusters’ Jaime Hyneman (the one with the mustache) says that he can’t find any reason why the contraption wouldn’t work, and can’t see any faulty editing in the video. As someone who does crazy things for a living in a special effects capacity, he ought to know.