Learning to Search Efficiently in High Dimensions

Part of Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 24 (NIPS 2011)

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Zhen Li, Huazhong Ning, Liangliang Cao, Tong Zhang, Yihong Gong, Thomas S. Huang


High dimensional similarity search in large scale databases becomes an important challenge due to the advent of Internet. For such applications, specialized data structures are required to achieve computational efficiency. Traditional approaches relied on algorithmic constructions that are often data independent (such as Locality Sensitive Hashing) or weakly dependent (such as kd-trees, k-means trees). While supervised learning algorithms have been applied to related problems, those proposed in the literature mainly focused on learning hash codes optimized for compact embedding of the data rather than search efficiency. Consequently such an embedding has to be used with linear scan or another search algorithm. Hence learning to hash does not directly address the search efficiency issue. This paper considers a new framework that applies supervised learning to directly optimize a data structure that supports efficient large scale search. Our approach takes both search quality and computational cost into consideration. Specifically, we learn a boosted search forest that is optimized using pair-wise similarity labeled examples. The output of this search forest can be efficiently converted into an inverted indexing data structure, which can leverage modern text search infrastructure to achieve both scalability and efficiency. Experimental results show that our approach significantly outperforms the start-of-the-art learning to hash methods (such as spectral hashing), as well as state-of-the-art high dimensional search algorithms (such as LSH and k-means trees).