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What is Retrieval-Augmented Generation (RAG)?

RAG (Retrieval-Augmented Generation) is an AI framework that combines the strengths of traditional information retrieval systems (such as databases) with the capabilities of generative large language models (LLMs).  By combining this extra knowledge with its own language skills, the AI can write text that is more accurate, up-to-date, and relevant to your specific needs.

Grounding for Gemini with Vertex AI Search and DIY RAG

How does Retrieval-Augmented Generation work?

RAGs operate with a few main steps to help enhance generative AI outputs: 

  • Retrieval and Pre-processing: RAGs leverage powerful search algorithms to query external data, such as web pages, knowledge bases, and databases. Once retrieved, the relevant information undergoes pre-processing, including tokenization, stemming, and removal of stop words.
  • Generation: The pre-processed retrieved information is then seamlessly incorporated into the pre-trained LLM. This integration enhances the LLM's context, providing it with a more comprehensive understanding of the topic. This augmented context enables the LLM to generate more precise, informative, and engaging responses. 

RAG operates by first retrieving relevant information from a database using a query generated by the LLM. This retrieved information is then integrated into the LLM's query input, enabling it to generate more accurate and contextually relevant text. RAG leverages vector databases, which store data in a way that facilitates efficient search and retrieval.

Why Use RAG?

RAG offers several advantages over traditional methods of text generation, especially when dealing with factual information or data-driven responses. Here are some key reasons why using RAG can be beneficial:

Access to updated information

Traditional LLMs are often limited to their pre-trained knowledge and data. This could lead to potentially outdated or inaccurate responses. RAG overcomes this by granting LLMs access to external information sources, ensuring accurate and up-to-date answers.

Factual grounding

LLMs are powerful tools for generating creative and engaging text, but they can sometimes struggle with factual accuracy. This is because LLMs are trained on massive amounts of text data, which may contain inaccuracies or biases.

RAG helps address this issue by providing LLMs with access to a curated knowledge base, ensuring that the generated text is grounded in factual information. This makes RAG particularly valuable for applications where accuracy is paramount, such as news reporting, scientific writing, or customer service.

Note: RAG may also assist in preventing hallucinations being sent to the end user. The LLM will still generate solutions from time to time where its training is incomplete but the RAG technique helps improve the user experience.

Contextual relevance

The retrieval mechanism in RAG ensures that the retrieved information is relevant to the input query or context.

By providing the LLM with contextually relevant information, RAG helps the model generate responses that are more coherent and aligned with the given context.

This contextual grounding helps to reduce the generation of irrelevant or off-topic responses.

Factual consistency

RAG encourages the LLM to generate responses that are consistent with the retrieved factual information.

By conditioning the generation process on the retrieved knowledge, RAG helps to minimize contradictions and inconsistencies in the generated text.

This promotes factual consistency and reduces the likelihood of generating false or misleading information.

Utilizes vector databases

RAGs leverage vector databases to efficiently retrieve relevant documents. Vector databases store documents as vectors in a high-dimensional space, allowing for fast and accurate retrieval based on semantic similarity.

Improved response accuracy

RAGs complement LLMs by providing them with contextually relevant information. LLMs can then use this information to generate more coherent, informative, and accurate responses, even multi-modal ones.

RAGs and chatbots

RAGs can be integrated into a chatbot system to enhance their conversational abilities. By accessing external information, RAG-powered chatbots helps leverage external knowledge to provide more comprehensive,informative, and context-aware responses, improving the overall user experience.