Thursday, March 22, 2012

Jarno Smeets: flying like a bird, a CGI hoax

Update: Jarno's real name is Floris Kaayk (see his real identity website) and he's a CGI-trained artist who created this hoax for a TV show
Many people have thought that using their own muscle power, humans can't fly just like birds.

Jarno Smeets, a Flying Dutchman whom no one knows and who falsified his CV, has just proved otherwise, unless he has falsified the video and/or the technical information behind it as well:

So far, it's 100 meters covered in a minute. See his blog, YouTube channel, and Twitter channel.

See the story in R&D Mag for a slightly more extensive review of his technology and motivation. The system involves 17 square meters of wings, two Wii controllers, accelerometers from a smartphone, and Turnigy motors. All these data could be fake, as Wired, Gizmodo, Tech Crunch, and others try to claim.

If the viral video isn't fake, I suspect that in a foreseeable future, this method will become the only way to fly across the Atlantic Ocean that will be allowed by the European Union bureaucrats to those who are not European Union bureaucrats.

Whether or not the flight was real, I do think that it must be possible to design such a gadget. There's no reason I know of why humans should be unable to extend their body by gadgets that emulate birds. In fact, whether or not the guy faked his name or CV, you may want to count me as a moderate believer. I don't see any smoking gun that would prove it's fake (although I don't claim that greater experts can't see it) and the actual efforts and detailed technology he's been developing since August 2011 seem nontrivial and difficult enough to me.

If the flight were fake, it wouldn't be about one computer-generated video. It would be about faking a year of a industrious Dutchman's life. Much of the criticism I have seen looks superficial to me.

If Jarno Smeets (including his life since Summer 2011) and the Human Bird Project is an advertisement campaign, Nintendo is the most likely mastermind according to Fox News. See seven viral ad campaigns in the past.


  1. If it's not a fake all he needs to do is repeat it with the skeptics present.

  2. The wings are driven by electric motors, so there are battery packs involved. See:

    It is not unreasonable to believe that a small battery pack could contain enough energy for the short flight shown. I didn't really see any evidence of a claim that the flight was human powered (other than the running for the takeoff).

  3. I just read on a dutch blog it's fake. See: The video seems to be a mix of two separate video's, whicj can be shown bij the black squares on the wings. Sometimes there are two squares, sometimes just one.

  4. Lubos,
    The Gossamer Condor had a wingspan of nearly 100 feet. In the WP article, the chord looks like about 6 feet for a wing area of 600 sq. ft. The pilot, Bryan Allen, weighed 145 lb. The airframe weighed 70 lb. Total 215 lb. Wing loading: very low 0.358 lb/sq ft yet it was all a champion bicycle racer could do to keep it aloft with leg power.
    The video shows a much heavier man and much less wing area. Could he do it with his arms?
    I don't theeek so.

    Bill Drissel
    Grand Prairie, TX, USA