Subspace Clustering via Tangent Cones

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

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Amin Jalali, Rebecca Willett


Given samples lying on any of a number of subspaces, subspace clustering is the task of grouping the samples based on the their corresponding subspaces. Many subspace clustering methods operate by assigning a measure of affinity to each pair of points and feeding these affinities into a graph clustering algorithm. This paper proposes a new paradigm for subspace clustering that computes affinities based on the corresponding conic geometry. The proposed conic subspace clustering (CSC) approach considers the convex hull of a collection of normalized data points and the corresponding tangent cones. The union of subspaces underlying the data imposes a strong association between the tangent cone at a sample $x$ and the original subspace containing $x$. In addition to describing this novel geometric perspective, this paper provides a practical algorithm for subspace clustering that leverages this perspective, where a tangent cone membership test is used to estimate the affinities. This algorithm is accompanied with deterministic and stochastic guarantees on the properties of the learned affinity matrix, on the true and false positive rates and spread, which directly translate into the overall clustering accuracy.