Rediscovered William Shatner PSA shows quaint 80s dreams of robots and AI

Beloved Star Trek actor William Shatner is more than just Captain James Tiberius Kirk. The 91-year-old actor has famously sang Elton John’s Rocketman, Return penned a number of books, and has even gone to space.

However, over the course of his career, Shatner has also starred in a number of educational PSAs. These videos, many lost too time, have covered a variety of topics, but one rediscovered video covers what Stealth loves best: Robotics and AI.

William Shatner teaches the 80s about robots

Via GFR, a recently rediscovered Shatner PSA has been uploaded online. Called Robotics: The Future Is Now, the video focuses on production robots in factories and warehouses.

Made by AIMS Media, the video is a adorable look at the nature of 80s robotics and the decade’s hopes for the future. In fact, the video even touches on some robotics feats that are just around the corner.

The video starts with Shatner interacting with an adorable 80s style personal robot. The dome-headed robot asks the actor for an autograph, holding out a pad of paper in an adorably retro claw arm.

Afterwards, the video moves to discussing the robotics of the time. This includes robots for factories, everything from claw-arms to automatic part sorters. The video even covers basic “robot vision”, cameras that allow robots to know what they’re looking at.

Hilariously, robots of the 80s are not much more complicated than most of the ones found today. While we’re finally getting machines like medical robots that can perform surgery, the designs of the 80s still fuel a lot of machines today.

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However, while the educational video about factory robots are interesting, William Shatner discussing the industry’s future is far more interesting.

The 80s hopes for robotic futures

In the video, William Shatner discusses “personal robots” in both their 80s form and what they could be in the future. The actor explains:

“Personal Robots… they’re amusing, they’re entertaining, and they can be programmed to do a number of useful things around the house.”

“Speaking of the future,” he continued. “What lies ahead in the future of robotics? There seems to be no limit. Let your imagination run wild! How about intelligent robots? Artificial intelligence, human-like intelligence, means learning, adapting, reasoning and self-correction. They’re here today, and they’ll be commonplace tomorrow.”

Now, Shatner’s comments are correct. Artificially intelligence, at least rudimentary versions of it, did exist back in the 1980s. While our robots are safer, more advanced and unashamedly better, modern-day AI is based on the same ideals as it was back then.

However, we are approaching a world where robotics are more commonplace. Humanoid robots like Tesla Bot are aiming to be released in the next few years, and commercial robot dogs are already available. AI robots even exist in little desktop robo-pets like Vector. And yes, they’re adorable.

Looking back at retro-futurism like this is important. Not only does it show how far we’ve truly come, but it also gives the past credit for all it’s done.

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