Faster DBSCAN via subsampled similarity queries

Part of Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 33 (NeurIPS 2020)

AuthorFeedback Bibtex MetaReview Paper Review Supplemental


Heinrich Jiang, Jennifer Jang, Jakub Lacki


DBSCAN is a popular density-based clustering algorithm. It computes the $\epsilon$-neighborhood graph of a dataset and uses the connected components of the high-degree nodes to decide the clusters. However, the full neighborhood graph may be too costly to compute with a worst-case complexity of $O(n^2)$. In this paper, we propose a simple variant called SNG-DBSCAN, which clusters based on a subsampled $\epsilon$-neighborhood graph, only requires access to similarity queries for pairs of points and in particular avoids any complex data structures which need the embeddings of the data points themselves. The runtime of the procedure is $O(sn^2)$, where $s$ is the sampling rate. We show under some natural theoretical assumptions that $s \approx \log n/n$ is sufficient for statistical cluster recovery guarantees leading to an $O(n\log n)$ complexity. We provide an extensive experimental analysis showing that on large datasets, one can subsample as little as $0.1\%$ of the neighborhood graph, leading to as much as over 200x speedup and 250x reduction in RAM consumption compared to scikit-learn's implementation of DBSCAN, while still maintaining competitive clustering performance.