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Fixed-Support Wasserstein Barycenters: Computational Hardness and Fast Algorithm
Tianyi Lin · Nhat Ho · Xi Chen · Marco Cuturi · Michael Jordan

Thu Dec 10 09:00 PM -- 11:00 PM (PST) @ Poster Session 6 #1735
We study the fixed-support Wasserstein barycenter problem (FS-WBP), which consists in computing the Wasserstein barycenter of $m$ discrete probability measures supported on a finite metric space of size $n$. We show first that the constraint matrix arising from the standard linear programming (LP) representation of the FS-WBP is \textit{not totally unimodular} when $m \geq 3$ and $n \geq 3$. This result resolves an open question pertaining to the relationship between the FS-WBP and the minimum-cost flow (MCF) problem since it proves that the FS-WBP in the standard LP form is not an MCF problem when $m \geq 3$ and $n \geq 3$. We also develop a provably fast \textit{deterministic} variant of the celebrated iterative Bregman projection (IBP) algorithm, named \textsc{FastIBP}, with a complexity bound of $\tilde{O}(mn^{7/3}\varepsilon^{-4/3})$, where $\varepsilon \in (0, 1)$ is the desired tolerance. This complexity bound is better than the best known complexity bound of $\tilde{O}(mn^2\varepsilon^{-2})$ for the IBP algorithm in terms of $\varepsilon$, and that of $\tilde{O}(mn^{5/2}\varepsilon^{-1})$ from accelerated alternating minimization algorithm or accelerated primal-dual adaptive gradient algorithm in terms of $n$. Finally, we conduct extensive experiments with both synthetic data and real images and demonstrate the favorable performance of the \textsc{FastIBP} algorithm in practice.

Author Information

Tianyi Lin (UC Berkeley)
Nhat Ho (University of Texas at Austin)
Xi Chen (New York University)
Marco Cuturi (Google Brain & CREST - ENSAE)

Marco Cuturi is a research scientist at Apple, in Paris. He received his Ph.D. in 11/2005 from the Ecole des Mines de Paris in applied mathematics. Before that he graduated from National School of Statistics (ENSAE) with a master degree (MVA) from ENS Cachan. He worked as a post-doctoral researcher at the Institute of Statistical Mathematics, Tokyo, between 11/2005 and 3/2007 and then in the financial industry between 4/2007 and 9/2008. After working at the ORFE department of Princeton University as a lecturer between 2/2009 and 8/2010, he was at the Graduate School of Informatics of Kyoto University between 9/2010 and 9/2016 as a tenured associate professor. He joined ENSAE in 9/2016 as a professor, where he is now working part-time. He was at Google between 10/2018 and 1/2022. His main employment is now with Apple, since 1/2022, as a research scientist working on fundamental aspects of machine learning.

Michael Jordan (UC Berkeley)

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