Science Fiction becomes Science Fact as Stargate’s David Hewlett embarks on a quest to render disabilities obsolete through technology…one fanciful futuristic feat of engineering at a time!
Upgrade Required is a funny, fast-paced, feel-good and informative, mix of Science Fiction fandom and DIY Maker madness. In the spirit of the wildly popular Mythbusters, Upgrade Required revels in the joy of invention, collaboration, exploration and the DIY spirit. Each episode, Hewlett and his team, create whimsical technology solutions for fans with disability related issues, while making, fan-turned-friend, Q’s dream of overcoming his own Spinal Muscular Atrophy and becoming a cyborg… a robotic reality!
Upgrade Required is a thrilling, inspirational half hour of fun and innovation, and a testament to human’s insatiable desire to harness technology to conquer the world around them.
The noblest form of technology is that which allows recovery of lost abilities and makes us whole once more.” – Eric Valor – activist, Upgrade Required Expert and ALS Survivor
David Hewlett starred as the brilliant but snarky, Rodney Mckay in the international hit series Stargate. He quickly became a fan favorite, in large part for his own infectiously enthusiastic passion for geek culture, science fiction, science & technology.
Quinton ‘Q’ Fucile is a fan-turned-friend, and a highly intelligent and ambitious 21 year-old with Spinal Muscular Atrophy type 2. SMA type 2 is a degenerative neuromuscular disease that has weakened Q’s musculoskeletal system to such an extent that he can now only barely move his fingers. However, as the extraordinarily resilient Q sees it, those fingers can still move a mouse, and thus they can change the world.
Upgrade Required is rooted the unlikely friendship between Hewlett and Q, forged in science and science fiction and driven by a desire to invent and a shared belief in making disability busting technology fun and affordable to all.
Upgrade Required is a show about hope and wonder. It is about the joyous process of invention and collaboration — a fascinatingly diverse and inspiring group of smart, driven technology and science fiction fans, using cutting edge research and technologies towards engineering a better life and perhaps even a better human.
Together this geek “odd couple” use Hewlett’s SciFi connections to team up with diverse teams of local makers, robotics experts and engineers to construct fun & fanciful solutions to the each episode’s disability related problem…all the while, using the skills, knowledge and connections they acquire along the way to turn Q’s dream of an super-powered cyborg suit into reality!
“Intelligence is the ability to adapt to change.” –Stephen Hawkings
As technology becomes smaller, cheaper and more portable and powerful; hackers, hobbyists and citizen scientists are experimenting with ever more advanced and affordable forms of human augmentation. Upgrade Required is about bringing these experts and their futuristic technologies together with the people who need them today. Technologies that will allow the cyborgs of tomorrow to, not just contribute, but usurp us mere “normals” as the leaders, innovators, artists and explorers of the future.
“We are writing the pages of Science Fiction becoming fact. It is amazing to be a small part of it.” Eric Valor
Upgrade Required’s will harness the global reach of the science fiction community and the millions of minds it inspires. To confer and collaborate with some of the most influential voices in the SciFi genre; as well as the scores of our planet’s brightest scientists, engineers, biohackers and robotics experts, to bring the promise of science fiction to the disabled community.
Join us on our inspirational, SciFi inspired quest to turn disabilities into super abilities…and give Q and the disabled community a taste of the mobility and freedom that so many of us take for granted.
VFX and Animation
Animation plays a crucial role in every stage of Upgrade Required. Affordable visual effects technologies available to filmmakers today are truly astounding. The series will harness these VFX tools to enhance our interviews in the same way that bionics are enhancing our subject’s bodies.
These discussions will serve as the canvas for our VFX work. We will enhance our interview clips by adding animations and VFX that will visually augment their stories and ideas, transforming their severely limited movement into works of art. More importantly, VFX will reveal the amazingly funny, fascinating, complex and intelligent minds trapped within the bodies that fail them.
While Upgrade Required is not about the diseases responsible for many disabilities, we’ll use animation and VFX to create cool, beautiful and whimsical depictions of them — to give audiences an understanding of, and appreciation for, how SMA or ALS attacks its victims. The focus of the film, however, is on the inspired, passionate and creative souls who survive these terrible diseases. They are a new breed of smart, wired and tech-empowered human, forced to augment the bodies that have failed them.
Upgrade Required will draw from a diverse cast of characters; brilliant scientists, engineers, writers, directors, inspired makers, philosophers, programmers and hobbyists and Sci Fi nerds.
We have a really exciting roster of contributors including acclaimed filmmaker Guillermo Del Toro, who I had the pleasure of working with recently on The Shape Of Water.
Del Toro has agreed to support Upgrade Required, and to talk about his extraordinary depictions of man and machine over his career, including his upcoming remake of The Fantastic Voyage, with fellow visionary filmmaker James Cameron.
Upgrade Required documents this “I know a nerd who knows a nerd” approach to harness the skills and expertise of a varied, strange and wonderful collection of talents, to create a team of geeks who revel in the merging of man and machine — and who can help make it happen.
The Cyborg Circus Live!
Upgrade Required is more than just a television series, it is a rallying cry to audiences. Showing off disability deleting robotic revolution is one thing. Face-to-face, hands-on collaboration is a whole other level of engagment. Part of the series will focus on our creation of the “Cyborg Circus” a live, festival-like, convention, promoting disability tech and innovation.
The convention circuit is a wildly popular and vibrant part of the SciFi fandom and we want to harness that excitement for Upgrade Required. The benefit of a live venue is in bringing together people from all ages and walks of life, inspiring them with the possibilities of assistive technologies in a live, fun, community-building atmosphere.
The Cyborg Circus is a live, hands-on, robotic festival, Maker Faire and educational adventure. We will create an inspiring, entertaining showcase for presenting assistive technology, and its potential, to a wider audience. The show combines a series of dynamic presentations, mind-blowing feats of robotics and engineering ingenuity, Hackathons and demonstrations. Upgrades’ Cyborg Circus presents Q (live in suit or via telepresence robot), Hewlett and a host of SciFi celebrities together with robotic and biomechanical engineers, sharing the latest technologies and resources designed to further our merging of man and machine.
The Cyborg Circus is a fantastic opportunity to inspire local schools, communities, celebrities, corporations, governments and organizations to take action and get involved. Creating an Upgrade Required community out of entrepreneurs, engineers, citizen scientists and people with disabilities; sharing ideas, insights and excitement about what is needed to move technology, and with it, humankind, forward. The Cyborg Circus will invite local artists, experts, builders and tech companies to share their expertise, inventions and experiences, creating newsworthy buzz and exposure to the cyborg cause!
Upgrade Required is about integrating humans and technology. As such, robotics will play an important role in, not just the creation of assistive technology for people like Q, but in embracing robotic filming tools and technologies in the story telling process. Aerial, sea and land based drones, autonomous vehicles, as well as articulated robotic arms, cranes, face and motion tracking, and AI control technologies are just a few of the tools and techniques we will harness throughout our adventures. The hope is that many of the inventions, innovations, cheats and techniques we employ in making Upgrade Required can then be engineered to work for people with disabilities: providing them with new tools to express themselves and contribute their own artistic filmic endeavours.
Q’s Cyborg Suit
The first stage of Q’s robotic cyborg suit is the exo-neck, allowing Q to turn his own head without assistance. The neck is Q’s own concept and will be controllable via Brain Computer Interface (thanks to OpenBCI) and manual controls. Other cyborg components include camera mounts with robotic controls and a host of augmented visual sensors allowing Q to track and control his food-science projects from afar; robotic arms; a robotic hoist; telepresence robot with autonomous capabilities, to name but a few.
UpgradeRequired.org will serve as an online community where people with disabilities, makers, engineers, scientists, artists, programmers and Sci Fi fans can plot, scheme and collaborate with each other. The site will host assistive and robotic tech news and articles, as well as how-to instructions, CAD and 3D printable files and sample code, everything needed to make these technologies a reality. It will also inspire SciFi fans to band together and make things happen; inspired by, or even in partnership with, the source of their favourite fandom. The goal is to get people talking and working together towards a better technology and a better world.