Haghiri, Siavash, Ghoshdastidar, Debarghya, von Luxburg, Ulrike

We consider machine learning in a comparison-based setting where we are given a set of points in a metric space, but we have no access to the actual distances between the points. Instead, we can only ask an oracle whether the distance between two points $i$ and $j$ is smaller than the distance between the points $i$ and $k$. We are concerned with data structures and algorithms to find nearest neighbors based on such comparisons. We focus on a simple yet effective algorithm that recursively splits the space by first selecting two random pivot points and then assigning all other points to the closer of the two (comparison tree). We prove that if the metric space satisfies certain expansion conditions, then with high probability the height of the comparison tree is logarithmic in the number of points, leading to efficient search performance. We also provide an upper bound for the failure probability to return the true nearest neighbor. Experiments show that the comparison tree is competitive with algorithms that have access to the actual distance values, and needs less triplet comparisons than other competitors.

Andoni, Alexandr, Indyk, Piotr, Razenshteyn, Ilya

The nearest neighbor problem is defined as follows: Given a set $P$ of $n$ points in some metric space $(X,D)$, build a data structure that, given any point $q$, returns a point in $P$ that is closest to $q$ (its "nearest neighbor" in $P$). The data structure stores additional information about the set $P$, which is then used to find the nearest neighbor without computing all distances between $q$ and $P$. The problem has a wide range of applications in machine learning, computer vision, databases and other fields. To reduce the time needed to find nearest neighbors and the amount of memory used by the data structure, one can formulate the {\em approximate} nearest neighbor problem, where the the goal is to return any point $p' \in P$ such that the distance from $q$ to $p'$ is at most $c \cdot \min_{p \in P} D(q,p)$, for some $c \geq 1$. Over the last two decades, many efficient solutions to this problem were developed. In this article we survey these developments, as well as their connections to questions in geometric functional analysis and combinatorial geometry.

Addanki, Raghavendra, Galhotra, Sainyam, Saha, Barna

Metric based comparison operations such as finding maximum, nearest and farthest neighbor are fundamental to studying various clustering techniques such as $k$-center clustering and agglomerative hierarchical clustering. These techniques crucially rely on accurate estimation of pairwise distance between records. However, computing exact features of the records, and their pairwise distances is often challenging, and sometimes not possible. We circumvent this challenge by leveraging weak supervision in the form of a comparison oracle that compares the relative distance between the queried points such as `Is point u closer to v or w closer to x?'. However, it is possible that some queries are easier to answer than others using a comparison oracle. We capture this by introducing two different noise models called adversarial and probabilistic noise. In this paper, we study various problems that include finding maximum, nearest/farthest neighbor search under these noise models. Building upon the techniques we develop for these comparison operations, we give robust algorithms for k-center clustering and agglomerative hierarchical clustering. We prove that our algorithms achieve good approximation guarantees with a high probability and analyze their query complexity. We evaluate the effectiveness and efficiency of our techniques empirically on various real-world datasets.

Ram, Parikshit, Lee, Dongryeol, March, William, Gray, Alexander G.

Several key computational bottlenecks in machine learning involve pairwise distance computations, including all-nearest-neighbors (finding the nearest neighbor(s) for each point, e.g. in manifold learning) and kernel summations (e.g. in kernel density estimation or kernel machines). We consider the general, bichromatic case for these problems, in addition to the scientific problem of N-body potential calculation. In this paper we show for the first time O(N) worst case runtimes for practical algorithms for these problems based on the cover tree data structure (Beygelzimer, Kakade, Langford, 2006).

Narayanan, Shyam, Nelson, Jelani

Let $\varepsilon\in(0,1)$ and $X\subset\mathbb R^d$ be arbitrary with $|X|$ having size $n>1$. The Johnson-Lindenstrauss lemma states there exists $f:X\rightarrow\mathbb R^m$ with $m = O(\varepsilon^{-2}\log n)$ such that $$ \forall x\in X\ \forall y\in X, \|x-y\|_2 \le \|f(x)-f(y)\|_2 \le (1+\varepsilon)\|x-y\|_2 . $$ We show that a strictly stronger version of this statement holds, answering one of the main open questions of [MMMR18]: "$\forall y\in X$" in the above statement may be replaced with "$\forall y\in\mathbb R^d$", so that $f$ not only preserves distances within $X$, but also distances to $X$ from the rest of space. Previously this stronger version was only known with the worse bound $m = O(\varepsilon^{-4}\log n)$. Our proof is via a tighter analysis of (a specific instantiation of) the embedding recipe of [MMMR18].