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How This Gen AI Visionary Re-Defined "Semantic Search" In One Of The World's Largest Social Media Websites Before the digital age transformed our fingertips into wands that summon vast troves of knowledge with a mere click, finding information was no easy feat. Cast your mind back to a world sans the magic of the 'search' button—libraries dominated, and dusty encyclopedias stood as sentinels of knowledge.

By Ramsy Swamy

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Lakshmanan Sethu Sankaranarayanan

Before the digital age transformed our fingertips into wands that summon vast troves of knowledge with a mere click, finding information was no easy feat. Cast your mind back to a world sans the magic of the 'search' button—libraries dominated, and dusty encyclopedias stood as sentinels of knowledge. The inception of the "search" function on websites during the dawn of the internet revolutionized how we access information. It was the late 1990s when pioneers like Google stepped onto the scene, turning what seemed like science fiction into everyday convenience.

With these innovations, the world shrunk overnight. Search engines rapidly evolved from simple text-based queries to complex algorithms capable of sifting through an ever-expanding digital universe. However, in the last few years, search technology has expanded its capability from text-entry search to allow search via images, voices, and videos. Take, for instance, image searches that allow users to upload a photo to find where to buy a coveted dress worn by a celebrity, or voice search capabilities that let us ask our devices for the day's weather forecast. Another innovation is the "Semantic Search", a sophisticated evolution that leverages Natural Language Processing (NLP) and AI, delves into the intent and contextual meaning behind queries. Semantic Search is not just about finding a page with the exact words you typed but discovering content that truly matches the query's intent. It understands that a search for "Apple" might need differentiation between the tech giant and the fruit based on the context provided by the user.

Lakshmanan Sethu Sankaranarayanan, a GenAI expert who successfully implemented one of the first practical advanced "Semantic Search" functionalities into one of the world's largest social media platforms says, "Navigating the boundless seas of social media without a robust search function is akin to finding a needle in a haystack—only the haystack is endless, and the needle, well, might just be an emoji. In the realm of social media platforms, where billions of thoughts, conversations, and pieces of content swirl in a constant digital storm, the search function isn't just a feature; it's the lighthouse guiding users to safe harbor."

Lakshmanan's tool, which was adopted by a platform that boasts over 70 million daily users transformed their search function from a basic utility to a critical component of user engagement and content discoverability. Here, the right search capabilities can mean the difference between a user staying engaged or getting lost in the digital wilderness.

Lakshmanan describes his tool as, "Imagine a search tool that doesn't just understand what you type, but what you mean. It's about creating a system that aligns with the intuitive human experience—a tool that thinks and learns, making each search smarter than the last." As AI has woven its way into "search" functionalities, it has redefined expectations.

"AI in search isn't just about better results; it's about creating a dialogue with the user," Lakshmanan explains. "It's about a search engine that converses, understands, and anticipates the needs of users across the globe, making every search a two-way interaction." He says.

The system Lakshmanan developed was a robust, AI-powered network capable of understanding and processing a myriad of data types across structured and unstructured formats. This versatility allowed it to offer personalized experiences to users, adapting and evolving with each interaction. "We wanted to create something that didn't just serve information but understood the user. Our goal was to make a search engine that could anticipate needs and offer solutions even before the user realized they needed them," Lakshmanan explains.

As we peel back the layers of this advanced Semantic Search system reshaping the world of social media, the engineering passion of Lakshmanan Sethu comes sharply into focus. His journey from an eager student tinkering with code in college to a revered Gen AI expert has been nothing short of cinematic. A recipient of multiple Microsoft MVP awards, Lakshmanan's early fascination with bridging technology gaps between humans and digital interfaces laid the groundwork for his later innovations.

Continuously refining this system, Lakshmanan is now focusing on integrating Generative AI powered Semantic Search capabilities, which promise even greater personalization and connectivity. This next evolution in search technology aims to tailor user experiences by seamlessly connecting dots across diverse data points, creating a custom mesh of search-driven insights tailored to individual users.

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