Tight convex relaxations for sparse matrix factorization

Part of Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 27 (NIPS 2014)

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Emile Richard, Guillaume R. Obozinski, Jean-Philippe Vert


Based on a new atomic norm, we propose a new convex formulation for sparse matrix factorization problems in which the number of nonzero elements of the factors is assumed fixed and known. The formulation counts sparse PCA with multiple factors, subspace clustering and low-rank sparse bilinear regression as potential applications. We compute slow rates and an upper bound on the statistical dimension of the suggested norm for rank 1 matrices, showing that its statistical dimension is an order of magnitude smaller than the usual l_1-norm, trace norm and their combinations. Even though our convex formulation is in theory hard and does not lead to provably polynomial time algorithmic schemes, we propose an active set algorithm leveraging the structure of the convex problem to solve it and show promising numerical results.