An Investigation of Practical Approximate Nearest Neighbor Algorithms

Part of Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 17 (NIPS 2004)

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Ting Liu, Andrew Moore, Ke Yang, Alexander Gray


This paper concerns approximate nearest neighbor searching algorithms, which have become increasingly important, especially in high dimen- sional perception areas such as computer vision, with dozens of publica- tions in recent years. Much of this enthusiasm is due to a successful new approximate nearest neighbor approach called Locality Sensitive Hash- ing (LSH). In this paper we ask the question: can earlier spatial data structure approaches to exact nearest neighbor, such as metric trees, be altered to provide approximate answers to proximity queries and if so, how? We introduce a new kind of metric tree that allows overlap: certain datapoints may appear in both the children of a parent. We also intro- duce new approximate k-NN search algorithms on this structure. We show why these structures should be able to exploit the same random- projection-based approximations that LSH enjoys, but with a simpler al- gorithm and perhaps with greater efficiency. We then provide a detailed empirical evaluation on five large, high dimensional datasets which show up to 31-fold accelerations over LSH. This result holds true throughout the spectrum of approximation levels.