Published March 22, 2012
This hoax really took flight.
Dutch filmmaker and animator Floris Kaayk in collaboration with media production company Revolver fessed up to creating a “media art project” that took the world by storm in recent days -- a video of inventor Jarno Smeets taking flight by flapping his arms.
But like the wax melting from Icarus’ wings, the truth is finally emerging.
Kaayak announced on Dutch television that he didn’t expect the media attention his project would generate, with over 8.9 million views across the world.
He made the project in collaboration with Revolver and Omroep NTL, sources in the Netherlands who have spoken to the filmmaker told FoxNews.com prior to the show. They admitted their hoax Thursday evening on the Dutch television show Wereld Draait Door.
Revolver -- which describes its goal on its website as "to engage with audiences through storytelling and original, challenging content -- was “extremely surprised” by the worldwide media attention its little project has generated, sources told FoxNews.com.
A video of the show posted to YouTube confirms the report.
“My name is Floris Kaayk. I’m actually a filmmaker and animator. I am now eight months working on an experiment about online media,” Kaayk said on the air, according to a YouTube translation.
Using Nintendo Wii technology, Jarno Smeets claimed to have rigged a contraption in which the motion of his arms is synced to that of a huge pair of wings made of kite fabric. In his first successful "flight" on March 18, he appeared to use his "human bird wings" to soar a horizontal distance of 328 feet (100 meters) above a park in the Netherlands.
Few people are surprised that this was simply a media stunt.
Despite initial words of congratulations from stunned viewers of the “miraculous” flight, skeptics quickly emerged to point out holes in the project.
A number of researchers have explored (at least in laboratory experiments and computational simulations) flapping wings,” said professor Lakshmi Sankar, director of the Computational Fluid Dynamics Lab at Guggenheim School of Aerospace Engineering, a part of the Georgia Institute of Technology.
“The biggest difficulties have been (a.) how to make the wings light enough to operate yet strong enough to carry the lift, and (b.) power needed to produce the lift,” he told FoxNews.com.
No one had solved those problems to date, he noted.
The latest video become an overnight YouTube sensation since it was posted on March 19; it is only the latest in a series of popular videos tracking Smeets' progress over the past eight months as he has gradually gotten his Human Bird Wings project off the ground -- a project that ultimately proves to be an elaborate hoax.
The videos feature the character of Jaarno Smeets; Revolver created an entire fake persona for the character, including not just the YouTube videos and the website but press release, a Facebook page, a Twitter feed, and even a LinkedIn profile citing a job at Philips and past work at Pailton Steering Systems.
Mark Stephenson, Head of Corporate Communications for Philips, confirmed to FoxNews.com what many had suspected: "I can confirm that Jarno Smeets is not a Philips employee."
On his website, Floris Kaayak makes no mention of the elaborate project that has consumed so many months. His biography there notes that he currently lives in The Hague and graduated cum laude from the animation department of the St. Joost Academy. He received his Master of Fine Arts degree at the Sandberg Institute.
Indeed, CGI experts agreed that it was an elaborate fake, though admittedly a well done one. Ryan Martin, Technical Director at Industrial Light & Magic, and his colleagues told the techblog Gizmodo that the video's poor focus covers up most evidence of CGI, but that the cloth material of Smeets' wings looks unnaturally stiff, and is computer generated.
It seems humanity's dream of unaided flight will have to remain just that: a dream.