The tale of Daedalus and Icarus engineering two pairs of flying wings out of feathers and wax to escape exile imprisonment at the hands of King Minos is one likely familiar to you all. Icarus might have ultimately failed in his attempt to save himself by flying too close to the sun – upon melting the wax that affixed feathers to his arms - but we humans seem to be fascinated by the idea of real human flight, outside of twin-engines and rocket-powered boosters of course. It’s an almost romanticised idea, being able to stretch your arms and go wherever you so choose, ill-constrained by gravity rooting you to terra firma. If a viral video is to be believed however, it is possible and Belgian engineer Jarno Smeets has achieved it.
Or so he'd want us to believe... The video, which is a viral smash already (racking up 2.9 million views in a little over two days), shows Smeets using his bird-like contraption to successfully take off, fly for around 100m and safely land, all without an engine or any other apparent aids in sight. An incredible feat in engineering or a brilliant melding of camera trickery and CGI? The authenticity of the video might well be in doubt, but the makers have a whole lot to be proud of in any way – real and the crew have come up with one of the greatest inventions of our time, fake (most probably) and they've devised a brilliant viral video, devoid of piano-playing cats or, well, 8-bit cats pooping rainbow colours.
Documenting the progress of designing and building his 'human birdwings', as well as gathering crucial advice from others along the way (including neuromechanics expert Bert Otten), Smeets' own website HumanBirdWings.net is a substantial companion piece to the viral video. Detailing the project from very early conceptual stages, to building the device (extra motors help him power the suit), getting the contraption to register his own arm movements (helped along with Wii remotes of all things), all to location scouting, early test flights and the remarkable video which we're discussing now. If this is indeed a fake, you have to admire the time and effort its creators have put into it. Genuine?
I am the Founder and Editor-in-chief of New Rising Media. You can follow me on Twitter @MrJasonEngland.