Artificial intelligence is becoming part of our everyday experience and is expected to be ever more integrated into ordinary life for many years to come. Thus, it is important for those in product development, research, and public policy to understand how the public’s perception of AI is shaped. In this study, we conducted focus groups and an online survey to determine the knowledge of AI held by the American public, and to judge whether entertainment media is a major influence on how Americans perceive AI. What we found is that the American public’s knowledge of AI is patchy: some have a good understanding of what is and what is not AI, but many do not. When it came to understanding what AI can do, most respondents believe that AI could “replace human jobs” but few thought that it could “feel emotion.” Most respondents were optimistic about the future and impact of AI, though about one third were not sure. Most respondents also did not think they could develop an emotional bond with or be comfortable being provided care by an AI. Regarding the influence of entertainment media on perceptions of AI, we found a significant relationship between people’s beliefs about AI in entertainment media and their beliefs about AI in reality. Those who believe AI is realistically depicted in entertainment media were more likely to see AIs as potential emotional partners or apocalyptic robots than to imagine AIs taking over jobs or operating as surveillance tools.