Towards Practical Visual Search Engine within Elasticsearch.


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In this paper, we describe our end-to-end content-based image retrieval system built upon Elasticsearch, a well-known and popular textual search engine. As far as we know, this is the first time such a system has been implemented in eCommerce, and our efforts have turned out to be highly worthwhile. We end up with a novel and exciting visual search solution that is extremely easy to be deployed, distributed, scaled and monitored in a cost-friendly manner. Moreover, our platform is intrinsically flexible in supporting multimodal searches, where visual and textual information can be jointly leveraged in retrieval. The core idea is to encode image feature vectors into a collection of string tokens in a way such that closer vectors will share more string tokens in common. By doing that, we can utilize Elasticsearch to efficiently retrieve similar images based on similarities within encoded sting tokens. As part of the development, we propose a novel vector to string encoding method, which is shown to substantially outperform the previous ones in terms of both precision and latency. First-hand experiences in implementing this Elasticsearch-based platform are extensively addressed, which should be valuable to practitioners also interested in building visual search engine on top of Elasticsearch.
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