William Shatner Explores the Future of AI in Conversation with ProtoBot

Legendary “Star Trek” actor William Shatner has been exploring the new frontier of artificial intelligence. The actor best known for playing Captain Kirk on the iconic TV series talked with ProtoBot. This device combines holographic visuals with conversational AI and grapples with philosophical and ethical questions about the technology.

ProtoBot was developed by hologram technology provider Proto Inc. with conversational AI developer CodeBaby. The device was designed to understand and respond to questions posed, with the ability to answer in its unique style. ProtoBot can also display video, music, and other content and will eventually be able to take on tasks such as booking travel and ordering food.

Shatner drew on his experience as an early spokesman for Priceline to demonstrate ProtoBot’s capabilities. Dressed in a suit and tie, the actor used a microphone to talk with the bot, asking it about his family and what it was like to be an ad spokesman for the name-your-own-price travel site.

For example, when asked whether his family prefers coach or first-class tickets, Shatner replied, “Well, they’re both comfortable, but my wife and I usually fly with Priceline because we always get the cheapest flights.”

When Shatner was told that people often use the bot to find their next vacation, he responded, “Yeah, I hear that a lot. It’s convenient to do it from your chair at home and ask it about what you’re looking for.”

But Shatner was more interested in examining ProtoBot’s potential beyond a simple consumer interaction. He challenged the AI to converse with him and other users more humanly, asking it questions that push the boundaries of what it can understand and react to.

He questioned how much it can perceive human emotions, such as happiness, anger, and fear. Shatner even speculated that the future of AI could include communicating with the deceased, with some companies already developing chatbots that can re-create the voice and mannerisms of a particular person after their death.

As the world embraces AI, lawmakers and other entities attempt to establish safeguards to protect against its misuse. Shatner says he believes humanity is at a critical turning point and that it’s imperative to be vigilant about how the technology is used. He says the choices we make today will determine the trajectory of how tech evolves and influences society. He hopes to see the development of AI advance to a point that enables the public to interact with it in beneficial and safe ways. 2018 Reuters Limited and its affiliates. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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