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Approximate K-Means++ in Sublinear Time

Last modified: 2016-02-21

#### Abstract

The quality of K-Means clustering is extremely sensitive to proper initialization. The classic remedy is to apply k-means++ to obtain an initial set of centers that is provably competitive with the optimal solution. Unfortunately, k-means++ requires k full passes over the data which limits its applicability to massive datasets. We address this problem by proposing a simple and efficient seeding algorithm for K-Means clustering. The main idea is to replace the exact D2-sampling step in k-means++ with a substantially faster approximation based on Markov Chain Monte Carlo sampling. We prove that, under natural assumptions on the data, the proposed algorithm retains the full theoretical guarantees of k-means++ while its computational complexity is only sublinear in the number of data points. For such datasets, one can thus obtain a provably good clustering in sublinear time. Extensive experiments confirm that the proposed method is competitive with k-means++ on a variety of real-world, large-scale datasets while offering a reduction in runtime of several orders of magnitude.

#### Keywords

Clustering; K-Means; Large-scale machine learning; Markov Chain Monte Carlo; approximate sampling

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