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In the ever-evolving landscape of artificial intelligence, data is the new oil, and vector search is the powerful refinery that unlocks its true potential. Imagine a world where you could search for information not merely by keywords but by the very essence of meaning and context. This is the magic of vector search, a revolutionary technology that is redefining the boundaries of AI applications.

Demystifying Vector Search: A Primer for AI Developers

At its core, Vector is the process of transforming complex data, be it text, images, or audio, into numerical representations called “vectors.” These vectors exist in a high-dimensional space, where each piece of data becomes a point, its location determined by its meaning and context.

Searching, then, becomes a matter of finding the closest neighbors, uncovering similar data points regardless of exact keyword matches.

To illustrate this concept, consider the following two sentences: “She likes to eat apples” and “He often buys fruits”. We can represent them as vectors in a 3-dimensional space:

Sentence 1: "She likes to eat apples" Vector: (0.3, 0.7, 0.8)
Sentence 2: "He often buys fruits" Vector: (0.1, 0.9, 0.2)

When performing a vector similarity search for the first sentence, the system would identify the second sentence as a close neighbor due to the proximity of their vector representations, despite the lack of keyword overlap.

This demonstrates how vector search can retrieve semantically similar data based on the underlying meaning, rather than relying solely on exact keyword matches.

The implications of vector search for AI are profound, enhancing applications across the board:

  • Natural language processing tasks, such as chatbots and sentiment analysis, benefit immensely from understanding the nuances of language.
  • Image recognition systems can identify similar images even with variations in color or angle.
  • Recommendation engines can suggest products based on a user’s past behavior and preferences, going beyond simple keyword-based filtering.

Bringing Vector Search to MySQL Users

While the potential of vector search is undeniable, integrating it with existing data infrastructures can be a challenge. Traditional SQL databases, like MySQL, while robust for structured data, struggle to handle the complexities of vector data and vector search operations.

To better understand these challenges, let’s consider the task of an e-commerce developer who needs to create an intelligent product recommendation system that suggests items based on semantic relationships to a user’s browsing and purchase history.

To accomplish this, the developer would typically rely on a database system like MySQL to store and retrieve the necessary data. However, traditional SQL databases are not designed to handle vector search efficiently. Fortunately, there are solutions available to enable vector search capabilities in MySQL.

Basic Approach: MySQL Database + Vector Database

One basic way is to maintain two separate databases – a MySQL repository for structured product data and order records, while a dedicated vector database stores vector embeddings of product descriptions. To make recommendations, the application first retrieves and compares vector embeddings from the vector database to identify similar items. Following this, it queries the MySQL database to fetch the detailed information of the matched products. This approach can be likened to navigating two ships simultaneously—managing and transferring data between them amidst the challenging waves of semantic complexities.

Upgraded Approach: Built-in Vector Search for MySQL

But imagine the elegance of having your structured data and vector embeddings coexist peacefully aboard the same vessel. This is the power of built-in vector search for MySQL, like TiDB Serverless – a solution that streamlines your AI workflow. With a single SQL query, you can retrieve the most semantically similar product vectors and their associated details:

SELECT p.product_id,, p.description, VEC_Cosine_Distance(p.vec_embed, ?) AS distance FROM products p ORDER BY distance LIMIT 10;

This query directly returns the top 10 products, ordered by their vector similarity to the given input – a beacon guiding you through the semantic storm with ease.

A simple diagram can better express this difference:

TiDB Serverless: Pioneering Built-in Vector Search for MySQL

Leading the charge in this domain is TiDB Serverless, a fully managed serverless database offering that seamlessly integrates vector search capabilities into the familiar MySQL ecosystem. This innovative approach empowers developers to harness the best of both worlds: the reliability and ease of use of MySQL with the advanced functionalities of vector search.

Here’s what makes TiDB Serverless stand out:

  • Scalability to AI Demands: TiDB Serverless effortlessly scales to accommodate the dynamic data requirements of AI applications, ensuring efficient and cost-effective operations. Its Hybrid Transactional/Analytical Processing (HTAP) and serverless architecture enable real-time, large-scale data processing, crucial for AI and machine learning workloads.
  • MySQL and Vector, All in One: No more data silos. TiDB Serverless allows you to store vector embeddings alongside your existing MySQL data, eliminating redundancy and simplifying data management.
  • Effortless Joins: Utilize the familiar SQL environment to seamlessly join, index, and query both operational and vector data. This unlocks the ability to perform advanced semantic searches, combining the power of vector search with the simplicity of MySQL.
  • A Universe of Use Cases: From Retrieval Augmented Generation (RAG) to semantic searches, TiDB Serverless with vector search opens doors to a vast array of AI applications. Its integrations with leading AI platforms like OpenAI, Hugging Face, LangChain, and LlamaIndex further expand its potential and user experience.

👉 Try the most advanced MySQL vector solution with TiDB Serverless. Join the Waitlist

Vast Use Cases in AI: Powering the Future

TiDB Serverless with vector search fuels a multitude of AI applications. Here are a few examples:

  • Image Search: Leverage the OpenAI CLIP model to generate vectors for images and text, enabling users to search for images based on textual descriptions and vice versa.
  • LlamaIndex RAG with UI: Build a user-friendly RAG (Retrieval Augmented Generation) application that combines the power of large language models with a knowledge base stored in TiDB Serverless, providing contextually relevant and accurate responses to user queries.
  • Chat with URL: Develop an RAG application that can “chat” with any URL, extracting relevant information and engaging in meaningful conversations based on the content of the website.

Exploring AI Applications with TiDB Serverless

The future of AI is intertwined with the ability to efficiently manage and search vast amounts of data. TiDB Serverless with built-in vector search empowers developers to unlock this potential, paving the way for innovative AI applications that were previously unimaginable.

Start your journey today by signing up for a free trial of TiDB Serverless and joining the waitlist for TiDB Vector Search. Be a part of the revolution, where the power of MySQL meets the future of AI.

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Last updated April 30, 2024

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