Part of Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 29 (NIPS 2016)

*Dogyoon Song, Christina E. Lee, Yihua Li, Devavrat Shah*

We introduce the framework of {\em blind regression} motivated by {\em matrix completion} for recommendation systems: given $m$ users, $n$ movies, and a subset of user-movie ratings, the goal is to predict the unobserved user-movie ratings given the data, i.e., to complete the partially observed matrix. Following the framework of non-parametric statistics, we posit that user $u$ and movie $i$ have features $x_1(u)$ and $x_2(i)$ respectively, and their corresponding rating $y(u,i)$ is a noisy measurement of $f(x_1(u), x_2(i))$ for some unknown function $f$. In contrast with classical regression, the features $x = (x_1(u), x_2(i))$ are not observed, making it challenging to apply standard regression methods to predict the unobserved ratings. Inspired by the classical Taylor's expansion for differentiable functions, we provide a prediction algorithm that is consistent for all Lipschitz functions. In fact, the analysis through our framework naturally leads to a variant of collaborative filtering, shedding insight into the widespread success of collaborative filtering in practice. Assuming each entry is sampled independently with probability at least $\max(m^{-1+\delta},n^{-1/2+\delta})$ with $\delta > 0$, we prove that the expected fraction of our estimates with error greater than $\epsilon$ is less than $\gamma^2 / \epsilon^2$ plus a polynomially decaying term, where $\gamma^2$ is the variance of the additive entry-wise noise term. Experiments with the MovieLens and Netflix datasets suggest that our algorithm provides principled improvements over basic collaborative filtering and is competitive with matrix factorization methods.

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