Fuzzy Clustering with Similarity Queries

Wasim Huleihel, Arya Mazumdar, Soumyabrata Pal

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contributionpeer-review

1 Scopus citations


The fuzzy or soft k-means objective is a popular generalization of the well-known kmeans problem, extending the clustering capability of the k-means to datasets that are uncertain, vague and otherwise hard to cluster. In this paper, we propose a semisupervised active clustering framework, where the learner is allowed to interact with an oracle (domain expert), asking for the similarity between a certain set of chosen items. We study the query and computational complexities of clustering in this framework. We prove that having a few of such similarity queries enables one to get a polynomial-time approximation algorithm to an otherwise conjecturally NP-hard problem. In particular, we provide algorithms for fuzzy clustering in this setting that ask O(poly(k) log n) similarity queries and run with polynomialtime- complexity, where n is the number of items. The fuzzy k-means objective is nonconvex, with k-means as a special case, and is equivalent to some other generic nonconvex problem such as non-negative matrix factorization. The ubiquitous Lloyd-type algorithms (or alternating-minimization algorithms) can get stuck at a local minima. Our results show that by making few similarity queries, the problem becomes easier to solve. Finally, we test our algorithms over real-world datasets, showing their effectiveness in real-world applications.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationAdvances in Neural Information Processing Systems 34 - 35th Conference on Neural Information Processing Systems, NeurIPS 2021
EditorsMarc'Aurelio Ranzato, Alina Beygelzimer, Yann Dauphin, Percy S. Liang, Jenn Wortman Vaughan
PublisherNeural information processing systems foundation
Number of pages13
ISBN (Electronic)9781713845393
StatePublished - 2021
Event35th Conference on Neural Information Processing Systems, NeurIPS 2021 - Virtual, Online
Duration: 6 Dec 202114 Dec 2021

Publication series

NameAdvances in Neural Information Processing Systems
ISSN (Print)1049-5258


Conference35th Conference on Neural Information Processing Systems, NeurIPS 2021
CityVirtual, Online


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