Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Intersecting Faces: Non-negative Matrix Factorization With New Guarantees

The search for reasons as to why NMF works continues as witnessed today in the following preprint:

Intersecting Faces: Non-negative Matrix Factorization With New Guarantees  by  Rong Ge, James Zou

Non-negative matrix factorization (NMF) is a natural model of admixture and is widely used in science and engineering. A plethora of algorithms have been developed to tackle NMF, but due to the non-convex nature of the problem, there is little guarantee on how well these methods work. Recently a surge of research have focused on a very restricted class of NMFs, called separable NMF, where provably correct algorithms have been developed. In this paper, we propose the notion of subset-separable NMF, which substantially generalizes the property of separability. We show that subset-separability is a natural necessary condition for the factorization to be unique or to have minimum volume. We developed the Face-Intersect algorithm which provably and efficiently solves subset-separable NMF under natural conditions, and we prove that our algorithm is robust to small noise. We explored the performance of Face-Intersect on simulations and discuss settings where it empirically outperformed the state-of-art methods. Our work is a step towards finding provably correct algorithms that solve large classes of NMF problems.
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