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Nonnegative Matrix Factorization Via Archetypal Analysis

posted on 07.05.2019 by Hamid Javadi, Andrea Montanari

Given a collection of data points, nonnegative matrix factorization (NMF) suggests expressing them as convex combinations of a small set of “archetypes” with nonnegative entries. This decomposition is unique only if the true archetypes are nonnegative and sufficiently sparse (or the weights are sufficiently sparse), a regime that is captured by the separability condition and its generalizations. In this article, we study an approach to NMF that can be traced back to the work of Cutler and Breiman [(1994), “Archetypal Analysis,” Technometrics, 36, 338–347] and does not require the data to be separable, while providing a generally unique decomposition. We optimize a trade-off between two objectives: we minimize the distance of the data points from the convex envelope of the archetypes (which can be interpreted as an empirical risk), while also minimizing the distance of the archetypes from the convex envelope of the data (which can be interpreted as a data-dependent regularization). The archetypal analysis method of Cutler and Breiman is recovered as the limiting case in which the last term is given infinite weight. We introduce a “uniqueness condition” on the data which is necessary for identifiability. We prove that, under uniqueness (plus additional regularity conditions on the geometry of the archetypes), our estimator is robust. While our approach requires solving a nonconvex optimization problem, we find that standard optimization methods succeed in finding good solutions for both real and synthetic data. Supplementary materials for this article are available online


This work was partially supported by the NSF grants CCF-1319979, CCF-1714305, IIS-1741162, and a Stanford Graduate Fellowship.