A video posted on YouTube, featuring a man flying freely like a bird, by flapping a pair of mechanical wings, went viral in just a few days and turned a Dutch man known as Jarno Smeets into an Internet sensation. The video shows the man using a huge pair of wings made of kite fabric, a Wii remote, an Android phone (HTC Wildfire S) and electric motors. He straps on a contraption that allegedly allows him to sync the motion of his arms to that of the wings, thus taking off into the air simply by flapping his wings.
Since it was posted on March 19, the video became an overnight sensation and reached millions of views worldwide. There is, in fact, an entire series of videos tracking the man's progress over the past eight months, as he attempted to fly for his Human Bird Wings project.
'Bird Man' Comes Clean
The truth, however, always comes out eventually, and so it has in this case. The bird man featured in the videos, allegedly named Jarno Smeets, came clean and admitted that it was all an elaborate hoax, eight months in the making.
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Jarno Smeet's real name is Floris Kaayk, a Dutch filmmaker and animator, who created this media art project in collaboration with media production company Revolver and Omroep NTL. They admitted the hoax on Dutch TV show Wereld Draait Door, a.k.a. The World is Turning, on Thursday evening, March 22.
My name is Floris Kaayk, I'm actually a filmmaker and animator. I am now 8 months working on an experiment about online media, said Kaayk during the show. It's everybody's dream to fly. According to Revolver, the goal was to to engage with audiences through storytelling and original, challenging content. None of them expected the huge popularity and media attention this project generated worldwide.
'We All Want to Fly, Don't We?'
He wanted to chase a dream, as most artists do. He wanted to inspire people and I think he succeeded, said Bert Otten, neuromechanics scientist at the University of Groningen. As an artist he has succeeded, but he has fooled most of us. We all want to fly, don't we?
Kaayk approached Otten in August 2011, inquiring about the mechanics of flight. Unaware of the hoax, Otten believed Jarno Smeets genuinely wanted to fly. Although this kind of flight is possible in principle, he must have known early on that it would be impossible for him and that he had to fake it. It's pretty fantastic that he made us believe that we were on to something.
According to Kaayk's Web site, he was born in 1982 in Tiel, the Netherlands, and has been living in Hague, where the filmed hoax took place. He graduated with honors from St. Joost Academy, earned a Masters of Fine Arts and became a filmmaker, animator and CGI expert.
(reported by Alexandra Burlacu, edited by Surojit Chatterjee)