Alternating Minimization for Mixed Linear Regression

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Xinyang Yi, Constantine Caramanis, Sujay Sanghavi ;
Proceedings of the 31st International Conference on Machine Learning, PMLR 32(2):613-621, 2014.

Abstract

Mixed linear regression involves the recovery of two (or more) unknown vectors from unlabeled linear measurements; that is, where each sample comes from exactly one of the vectors, but we do not know which one. It is a classic problem, and the natural and empirically most popular approach to its solution has been the EM algorithm. As in other settings, this is prone to bad local minima; however, each iteration is very fast (alternating between guessing labels, and solving with those labels). In this paper we provide a new initialization procedure for EM, based on finding the leading two eigenvectors of an appropriate matrix. We then show that with this, a re-sampled version of the EM algorithm provably converges to the correct vectors, under natural assumptions on the sampling distribution, and with nearly optimal (unimprovable) sample complexity. This provides not only the first characterization of EM’s performance, but also much lower sample complexity as compared to both standard (randomly initialized) EM, and other methods for this problem.

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