Rei Toei is a fictional character in the Bridge trilogy of speculative fiction novels by William Gibson. Rei is introduced as the titular character in Gibson's 1995 novel Idoru, as an artificial intelligence, an embodied agent simulating a human female idol singer. A personality construct which adapts and learns from her interaction with humans, she irresistibly attracts data analyst protagonist Colin Laney.
The Toei film and music company is a well known studio in Japan, with a well-deserved international reputation. William Gibson imagined that by the time of his Bridge Trilogy, Japanese companies with a determined research direction would be producing products much like Rei Toei, given suitable funding through customer demand.
Rei Toei is a database composite from the wireless broadband internet of Japan, and the world. She has been programmed to remind viewers of their favourite J-pop idols, which in Japanese are known as aidoru (アイドル) (sounding like the English Idol). Her singing voice and performance styles are composites as well, giving her the ability to encompass the viewer's preference as well. In this way, her AI agent form is very similar to user accounts on a group-sharing mainframe.
Implicit in her design is that she is not one Idoru, but many. Individual viewers and fans will have a personalised Rei Toei album, video, and collection of images, as 'she' can be and is customised according to the tastes of viewers. Within the titular novel, it is implied that over-zealous fans have purposes that are threatening her and her parent company's reputations. The incipient scandal that might develop should Rei be successfully hacked and/or dbase-polluted are the reasons for the hiring of Colin Laney by Toei Ltd.
By the time Rei Toei has become a commercial entity, commercial in-space animated full-colour holography is also a commercial reality. As noted above, a personalised Rei Toei exist for individual viewers with Net access. However, for public concerts, Rei will take on an appearance that is a group consensus based on the membership of her audience.
The Expert's View
For most people, Rei Toei presents an aetherial effect on the sense based on her targeted AI, which modifies appearance based on Net profile of the user, which Rei can analyse on the fly and in real time, with multiple projections for multiple viewers, providing that the demands of viewer profile do not overload her system.
Colin Laney is introduced as a quantitative data analyst. With experience in viewing databases and interpreting multiple interactions, he is conditioned through training and exposure to being able to analyze both data flow and potential errors in database queries, insertion of hacking routines, and other anomalies. His first interpretation of Rei is instructive, both in terms of himself and the Idoru's AI:
"She shimmered, and Laney could detect just immediately below the threshold of consciousness a flow of data...."
- Bolton, Christopher (November 2002). "Editorial Introduction: The Borders of Japanese Science Fiction". Science Fiction Studies 29 (88, part 3).