In the Blade Runner, Joi is a hologram controlled by AI - this means that Joi's body is actually located inside the electronic chips in whatever device generates the light - like the projector located in K's apartment or in the billboards. In the movie we can also multiple times see that Joi is incorporeal - she can easily exist in the same place as physical objects (i.e. the hooker that K sleeps with, has her physical body replaced by Joi's hologram). All good so far... until we look at the emanator: it is a portable projector that lets the user take his Joi for walkies. The problem lies in the fact that Joi is interactive: she seems to see the surroundings, but since Joi has no physical eyes, she should see only what the emanator sees. She shouldn't be able to peek behind the corner of the wall, because the emanator laying in the middle of the room cannot see behind the corner, or to really be nitpicking at the concept, she shouldn't be able to see anything when the emanator is in K's pocket. Yet in few moments in the movie we can see Joi acting like she was seeing with her eyes, looking at things that should be invisible for the emanator - i.e. Joi has been watching the DNA data through the microscope-like oculars together with K.

Was she just pretending? Her reactions at surrounding that she can see with her eyes seem genuine - i.e. she is very distressed when K is unconscious in the car after being shot down, even while the emanator is lying on the floor and she is projected outside of the stuck door.

I'm not looking for a "real science" explanation of how the emanator works - something hand waved like "it's nanotechnology" would be sufficient, as long as you can provide some proofs.


2 Answers 2


You raise a good point. Maybe we need to suggest that the emanator is not the only part of the equipment.

Perhaps K also wears some small item, like a tiny camera or two, that are linked to the emanator and we never see a reference to them. They could be static on him.

Maybe the emanator can link to any open available broadcasting sensor device. It is, after all, a world with quite a lot of sophisticated equipment and, like our own work, it's likely that devices are interconnected or can at least network together specifically so they can interoperate.

As the Joi entity is designed only to provide some form of companionship with its operator, we can assume that all of its "world view" is centered around what its operator sees, hears and maybe feels.

As feeling (detecting) its owner's mood and what he/she/it is focused on is a key element in the Joi units demonstrating an apparent "emotional" connection with their operator it would make sense for some kind of implant to be used.

So it's possible, given the other tech we see in the movie, that a combination of these ideas and inferential deductive AI could be used to form a localized sensor map of the world around a JOI unit's emanator.

Also note that the action of projecting a hologramatic image and a computer generated personality is, in the movie's world, relatively easy. It possibly does not require much to do this and most of JOI's emanator would probably be a power storage unit and projector.

A last idea: who says JOI is projected into the real world as a hologram when using the emanator? K can see Joi. I think I recall Luv "noticing" Joi, but did anyone else apart from the prostitute? All of those characters are not human - they could have implants designed to "see" entities like Joi by detecting broadcasts from the emanator unit. Joi's emanator may not project an image at all, but project a virtual object that implants allow others to detect and may, in turn, allow the Joi entity to connect to their sensor data, or at least their operator's specific coded sensors.

  • Interesting points, especially about using "all available sensors around". And indeed I don't recall that K's Joi have been seen by a human - she was hiding when Joshi came to K's flat and I don't recall Deckard seeing her. Indeed it seems that only replicants - the hooker, Luv and K - were somehow interacting with her.
    – Yasskier
    Feb 1, 2018 at 1:57
  • 1
    +1 for the last paragraph alone! I'd of course like to see confirmation of any of this, but I don't think that's how Bladerunner works... Feb 1, 2018 at 20:01

Here's a hand-wavy idea: Joi is more than a hologram. There is a scene where she has an "electrostatic" effect on a physical object -- I recall on the hooker's hair. So perhaps she has a body that is something like an electromagnetic field and indeed, some kind of field that contemporary physics is unaware of. This field might be sensitive to sounds and photons and if the latter, perhaps she can see in a way that is quite different than the way humans (or any animal with eyes) sees. It is really hand-wavy because I can't see how it would be able to form an image like the human eye does, but there is no doubt that the science of Blade Runner and 2049 is far beyond the science of 2022.

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