Robust k-means: a Theoretical Revisit

Part of Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 29 (NIPS 2016)

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Over the last years, many variations of the quadratic k-means clustering procedure have been proposed, all aiming to robustify the performance of the algorithm in the presence of outliers. In general terms, two main approaches have been developed: one based on penalized regularization methods, and one based on trimming functions. In this work, we present a theoretical analysis of the robustness and consistency properties of a variant of the classical quadratic k-means algorithm, the robust k-means, which borrows ideas from outlier detection in regression. We show that two outliers in a dataset are enough to breakdown this clustering procedure. However, if we focus on “well-structured” datasets, then robust k-means can recover the underlying cluster structure in spite of the outliers. Finally, we show that, with slight modifications, the most general non-asymptotic results for consistency of quadratic k-means remain valid for this robust variant.