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In-Person Oral presentation / top 5% paper

Near-optimal Coresets for Robust Clustering

Lingxiao Huang · Shaofeng Jiang · Jianing Lou · Xuan Wu


Abstract: We consider robust clustering problems in $\mathbb{R}^d$, specifically $k$-clustering problems (e.g., $k$-Median and $k$-Means) with $m$ \emph{outliers}, where the cost for a given center set $C \subset \mathbb{R}^d$ aggregates the distances from $C$ to all but the furthest $m$ data points, instead of all points as in classical clustering. We focus on the $\epsilon$-coreset for robust clustering, a small proxy of the dataset that preserves the clustering cost within $\epsilon$-relative error for all center sets. Our main result is an $\epsilon$-coreset of size $O(m + \mathrm{poly}(k \epsilon^{-1}))$ that can be constructed in near-linear time. This significantly improves previous results, which either suffers an exponential dependence on $(m + k)$ [Feldman and Schulman, SODA'12], or has a weaker bi-criteria guarantee [Huang et al., FOCS'18]. Furthermore, we show this dependence in $m$ is nearly-optimal, and the fact that it is isolated from other factors may be crucial for dealing with large number of outliers. We construct our coresets by adapting to the outlier setting a recent framework [Braverman et al., FOCS'22] which was designed for capacity-constrained clustering, overcoming a new challenge that the participating terms in the cost, particularly the excluded $m$ outlier points, are dependent on the center set $C$. We validate our coresets on various datasets, and we observe a superior size-accuracy tradeoff compared with popular baselines including uniform sampling and sensitivity sampling. We also achieve a significant speedup of existing approximation algorithms for robust clustering using our coresets.

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