Part of Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 22 (NIPS 2009)
Zhirong Yang, Irwin King, Zenglin Xu, Erkki Oja
Stochastic Neighbor Embedding (SNE) has shown to be quite promising for data visualization. Currently, the most popular implementation, t-SNE, is restricted to a particular Student t-distribution as its embedding distribution. Moreover, it uses a gradient descent algorithm that may require users to tune parameters such as the learning step size, momentum, etc., in finding its optimum. In this paper, we propose the Heavy-tailed Symmetric Stochastic Neighbor Embedding (HSSNE) method, which is a generalization of the t-SNE to accommodate various heavy-tailed embedding similarity functions. With this generalization, we are presented with two difficulties. The first is how to select the best embedding similarity among all heavy-tailed functions and the second is how to optimize the objective function once the heave-tailed function has been selected. Our contributions then are: (1) we point out that various heavy-tailed embedding similarities can be characterized by their negative score functions. Based on this finding, we present a parameterized subset of similarity functions for choosing the best tail-heaviness for HSSNE; (2) we present a fixed-point optimization algorithm that can be applied to all heavy-tailed functions and does not require the user to set any parameters; and (3) we present two empirical studies, one for unsupervised visualization showing that our optimization algorithm runs as fast and as good as the best known t-SNE implementation and the other for semi-supervised visualization showing quantitative superiority using the homogeneity measure as well as qualitative advantage in cluster separation over t-SNE.