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Activate 2018 Wrap-Up: The Future of Search & AI

Practitioners in the search, Apache Solr, and AI communities from 39 countries converged at the Activate conference to share best practices and learn from experts in trainings and a range of talks, from use case stories about how companies like Slack and Reddit scale their search, to using Apache Solr to power a 3D printed open source robot. Experts and newcomers shared knowledge, explored opportunities and challenges, and sparked new ideas.

“We can successfully declare that the revolution has been won. Open source isn’t just a mainstay in enterprise technology stacks – it has become the standard for how innovative products and solutions are brought to market.” declared Will Hayes, Lucidworks CEO, in his opening keynote. Touching on the rebranding of the conference from “Lucene/Solr Revolution” to “Activate” Will framed the additional focus on AI as a natural evolution, as search activates AI. Search provides the most natural interface between consumer and enterprise by capturing each person’s intent and desires. With the customer experience bar continuously being raised by companies like Google and Amazon, customer expectations are high.

Highlights of innovative search uses demonstrated in conference talks:

  • A Q&A system created with deep learning algorithms to provide a natural language interface between questions and the answers. Such as “Can my wife drive on my insurance?,” and the response “The answer is yes, unless your husband has coverage on a separate auto insurance policy.”
  • Red Hat’s robust customer portal built with Lucidworks Fusion and Solr that has dramatically reduced support costs and improved customer satisfaction as customers prefer the ability to self-solve issues at their convenience.
  • Search is driving intelligence around cybersecurity and real-time threat detection.
  • Query intent understanding and relevancy improvements are being made using contextually-driven semantic search.
  • Learning to Rank is being leveraged for type-ahead and many additional powerful ways.

Soon, typing into a search box won’t be necessary as AI will predict a user’s desire before expressly stated. This progress requires an extensive amount of work for people in the search and AI fields, as well as people in correlated fields who will enable efficiency in its adoption. As Lucidworks SVP of Engineering Trey Grainger summed up in the closing keynote, “We need search to be multi-disciplinary, taking the best from devops, cloud ops, text search, personalization and recommendations systems, data science, and business domain experts, to enable us to activate our data and maximize the impact.”

A theme running throughout the event focused on  the future of search and AI as not “artificial”, but centered around human experiences, judgment, and advancement, and evolutions in the way we communicate. The fields of search and AI are turning away from a short-sighted data centered approach and toward the humans at its core. This begins at conferences like Activate, where people on the cutting edge of this technology challenge each other to improve.

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Activate 2018 Session Videos

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