I admit it, I was completely enamoured with the Human Birdwings Video. If you haven’t seen it, this is a video of Floris Kaayk (AKA Jarno Smeets, or as I like to call him, Harvey Birdman) strapping on a convincing-looking set of wings and taking off. Turns out it was fake and proves an uncomfortable reality about design and would-be ingenuity on the internet.

Design and the Internet

The Birdwing video stoked the embers of a deep human interest. It became a viral hit. It also generated a lot of heat from skeptics – particularly from the fact that there is no way he could generate enough lift from such flimsy wings and a few underpowered motors. Or the other ‘fact’ that he was able to succeed where others with more resources and years of research had failed. My original skepticism was dispelled after going through the long trail of videos documenting Mr. Birdman’s design and construction process. It was SO CONVINCING.

The Human Birdwing hoax exposes an uncomfortable fact about the big bright world of design and the internet. Lots of great products, software, hardware, designs, buildings and statistics make their rounds and nobody questions their validity when they appear. Last year, Freedom Of Creation managed to convince a great deal of people that they had developed a 3D printer that used sawdust as a input material. No one really noticed that the release date was ‘April 1st’.

Fabbaloo and other blogs covered it as if it was real, firmly convinced of that ‘yet another leap in design and 3D printing had been reached.’ A wood-based 3D printer is on everyone’s mind, and we have yet to see a decent version. A lot of us in the 3D printing community are fervently waiting for one. Kudos to FoC for taking advantage of our deepest desires. As it was with Harvey Birdman’s stunt – humans have been trying to pull this off for centuries, going back past Di Vinci to the Medieval Ages.

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