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Factorization Approach for Low-complexity Matrix Completion Problems: Exponential Number of Spurious Solutions and Failure of Gradient Methods

Baturalp Yalçın · Haixiang Zhang · Javad Lavaei · Somayeh Sojoudi


Burer-Monteiro (B-M) factorization approach can efficiently solve low-rank matrix optimization problems under the Restricted Isometry Property (RIP) condition. It is natural to ask whether B-M factorization-based methods can succeed on any low-rank matrix optimization problems with low information-theoretic complexity, i.e., polynomial-time solvable problems that have a unique solution. We provide negative answer to this question. We investigate the landscape of B-M factorized polynomial-time solvable matrix completion (MC) problems, which are the most popular subclass of low-rank matrix optimization problems without the RIP condition. We construct an instance of polynomial-time solvable MC problems with exponentially many spurious local minima, which leads to the failure of most gradient-based methods. We define a new complexity metric that measures the solvability of low-rank matrix optimization problems based on B-M factorization approach. In addition, we show that more measurements can deteriorate the landscape, which further reveals the unfavorable behavior of B-M factorization.

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