William Shatner’s legacy in science fiction goes back more than 50 years. From TV to film to books to videogames, his voice and visage remain an iconic part of 20th century popular culture. The evolution of technologies that were merely imagined at the start of his career and realities by the end also gives Shatner some interesting perspective.
With regard to virtual reality in particular, it is clear Star Trek’s original captain has had some up close encounters in VR that left him concerned about how the technology is used in the future.
“It’s so real: it’s the stuff of nightmares … We’ve got to be really careful because you could put somebody into a psychosis,” Shatner recently told The Guardian.
Shatner just released a new memoir and spoke about VR in recent weeks with The Guardian. In the book he discusses getting himself captured digitally with “everything necessary to enable technicians to make my image move and speak realistically”.
“Shatner will now ‘live’ forever,” he jokes.
He also notes how VR capture technology can allow family members to essentially speak to loved ones from beyond the grave.
“The possibility of people, prior to dying, [making] a little speech to a virtual-reality camera. Then you could put that by their grave and people who loved them, or were curious about them, could see them in their entirety, in absolute reality … There they are, saying, ‘my darling, I love you’,” Shatner said.
For those Star Trek fans out there with a good memory, you’ll recall this basic premise playing out in Star Trek: The Next Generation. In season 4 episode 2 of TNG (“Family”) Wesley Crusher comes face to face with a message from his long-dead father in the Holodeck.