Fuzzy Clustering with Similarity QueriesDownload PDF

Published: 09 Nov 2021, Last Modified: 22 Oct 2023NeurIPS 2021 PosterReaders: Everyone
Keywords: Fuzzy clustering, oracle, similarity queries, k-means, soft clustering.
Abstract: The fuzzy or soft $k$-means objective is a popular generalization of the well-known $k$-means problem, extending the clustering capability of the $k$-means to datasets that are uncertain, vague and otherwise hard to cluster. In this paper, we propose a semi-supervised active clustering framework, where the learner is allowed to interact with an oracle (domain expert), asking for the similarity between a certain set of chosen items. We study the query and computational complexities of clustering in this framework. We prove that having a few of such similarity queries enables one to get a polynomial-time approximation algorithm to an otherwise conjecturally NP-hard problem. In particular, we provide algorithms for fuzzy clustering in this setting that ask $O(\mathsf{poly}(k)\log n)$ similarity queries and run with polynomial-time-complexity, where $n$ is the number of items. The fuzzy $k$-means objective is nonconvex, with $k$-means as a special case, and is equivalent to some other generic nonconvex problem such as non-negative matrix factorization. The ubiquitous Lloyd-type algorithms (or alternating-minimization algorithms) can get stuck at a local minima. Our results show that by making few similarity queries, the problem becomes easier to solve. Finally, we test our algorithms over real-world datasets, showing their effectiveness in real-world applications.
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TL;DR: We propose a framework for semi-supervised active fuzzy clustering.
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