Abstract: We propose a novel formulation for dictionary learning that minimizes the determinant of the dictionary matrix, also known as its volume, subject to the constraint that each row of the sparse coefficient matrix has unit $\ell_1$ norm. The main motivation for the proposed formulation is that it provides global identifiability guarantee of the groundtruth dictionary and sparse coefficient matrices, up to the inherent and inconsequential permutation and scaling ambiguity, if a set of vectors obtained from the coefficient matrix lies inside the $\ell_\infty$ norm ball but contains the $\ell_2$ norm ball in their convex hull. Unlike existing work on identifiability of dictionary learning, our result is global, meaning that a globally optimal solution to our proposed formulation has to be a permuted and rescaled version of the groundtruth factors. Another major improvement in our result is that there is no additional assumption on the dictionary matrix other than it is nonsingular, unlike most other work that require the atoms of the dictionary to be mutually incoherent. We also provide a probabilistic analysis and show that if the sparse coefficient matrix is generated from the widely adopted Bernoulli-Gaussian model, then it is globally identifiable if the sample size is bigger than a constant times $k\log k$, where $k$ is the number atoms in the dictionary, with overwhelming probability. The bound is essentially the same as those local identifiability results, but we show that it is also global. Finally, we propose algorithms to solve the new proposed formulation, specifically one based on the linearized-ADMM with efficient per-iteration updates. The proposed algorithms exhibit surprisingly effective performance in correctly and efficiently recovering the dictionary, as demonstrated in the numerical experiments.
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