Alternating minimization for dictionary learning with random initialization

Part of Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 30 (NIPS 2017)

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Niladri Chatterji, Peter L. Bartlett


We present theoretical guarantees for an alternating minimization algorithm for the dictionary learning/sparse coding problem. The dictionary learning problem is to factorize vector samples $y^{1},y^{2},\ldots, y^{n}$ into an appropriate basis (dictionary) $A^*$ and sparse vectors $x^{1*},\ldots,x^{n*}$. Our algorithm is a simple alternating minimization procedure that switches between $\ell_1$ minimization and gradient descent in alternate steps. Dictionary learning and specifically alternating minimization algorithms for dictionary learning are well studied both theoretically and empirically. However, in contrast to previous theoretical analyses for this problem, we replace a condition on the operator norm (that is, the largest magnitude singular value) of the true underlying dictionary $A^*$ with a condition on the matrix infinity norm (that is, the largest magnitude term). This not only allows us to get convergence rates for the error of the estimated dictionary measured in the matrix infinity norm, but also ensures that a random initialization will provably converge to the global optimum. Our guarantees are under a reasonable generative model that allows for dictionaries with growing operator norms, and can handle an arbitrary level of overcompleteness, while having sparsity that is information theoretically optimal. We also establish upper bounds on the sample complexity of our algorithm.