If anyone embodies the promise of the future, it’s Captain James T. Kirk himself — William Shatner. After all, the man has beaten the odds and is living long and prospering. Even at 90, Mr. Shatner is forging new paths into “what’s next,” just like he did on that pioneering television series back in the 1960s.
His new plan is to never die. Seriously. With the help of the technology company, StoryFile, Shatner plans to record himself into a computer software program, which will allow future generations to interact with the legendary actor.
This sounds very much like the film Superman, where Clark Kent (Christopher Reeve) was able to ask his long-dead father, Jor-El (Marlon Brando), for advice as he navigated the strange planet in which he lived. Superman interacted with his father — even though his father had been killed many years before when the world Krypton exploded.
However, Trek fans may find a similarity with The Original Series episode “Return of the Archons,” where a 6,000-year-old holographic computer program communicated with humans on planet Beta-III.
On the StoryFile website, Shatner shares the promise of what this new technology can do. Those who are living can speak to generations to come.
“I have a story to tell,” Shatner said for a video embedded on the StoryFile site. “Imagine, if you could record yourself … in a way that future generations, hundreds of years from now. Could talk to them … and you could talk back.”
“That’s possible with StoryFile,” said Shatner.
According to the StoryFile website, “generations now and in the future will be able to have a conversation with William Shatner — not an avatar, not a deep fake, but the REAL William Shatner.”
Fans are encouraged to sign up on the site to be notified when the “real” William Shatner will be available for a conversation. The company and its new technology will be available to all this summer.
StoryFile says that their advanced video technology called “Conversa” will be available for families who wish to preserve their loved one’s legacy in this way, but also for museum exhibits, business, education, and training solutions.
The company says that these AI-based “people” are created with a three-step process. First, the subject “is filmed answering questions about their life using volumetric video, Depthkit, and state-of-the-art sound equipment.”
According to Cathy Hackl — a leading tech futurist and augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR), and spatial computing expert — volumetric video is video recorded in 3D, “capturing the object or space three-dimensionally in real-time.”
This makes the video seem less 2D and more like a hologram. That’s precisely what Microsoft calls volumetric video on their website, which is where those interested can purchase the equipment required to make volumetric video.
After the footage is captured, the StoryFile team processes it and tags each clip. The footage is then loaded into their proprietary video platform.
StoryFile says that the third step is simply interaction. They say that they capture “the individual’s legacy in a way that no one else does by empowering them to pass on their values, struggles, life lessons — all while inspiring and delighting friends, family, and even future generations.”
Hopefully, Shatner’s computerized form will be more like Jor-El from Superman, who gave terrific advice. On the other hand, in “Return of the Archons,” Landru proved to be a menace, which Kirk and Mr. Spock had to disable through clever arguments.
In a way, Mr. Shatner’s real-life mirrors his famous on-screen alter-ego. Much like Captain Kirk, Bill Shatner is going where “no man has gone before.” Thanks to StoryFile, instead of outer space, Shatner will become a living AI. He can go on interacting and entertaining forever.