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# A Riemannian Block Coordinate Descent Method for Computing the Projection Robust Wasserstein Distance

*Proceedings of the 38th International Conference on Machine Learning*, PMLR 139:4446-4455, 2021.

#### Abstract

The Wasserstein distance has become increasingly important in machine learning and deep learning. Despite its popularity, the Wasserstein distance is hard to approximate because of the curse of dimensionality. A recently proposed approach to alleviate the curse of dimensionality is to project the sampled data from the high dimensional probability distribution onto a lower-dimensional subspace, and then compute the Wasserstein distance between the projected data. However, this approach requires to solve a max-min problem over the Stiefel manifold, which is very challenging in practice. In this paper, we propose a Riemannian block coordinate descent (RBCD) method to solve this problem, which is based on a novel reformulation of the regularized max-min problem over the Stiefel manifold. We show that the complexity of arithmetic operations for RBCD to obtain an $\epsilon$-stationary point is $O(\epsilon^{-3})$, which is significantly better than the complexity of existing methods. Numerical results on both synthetic and real datasets demonstrate that our method is more efficient than existing methods, especially when the number of sampled data is very large.