Markovian Sliced Wasserstein Distances: Beyond Independent Projections

Part of Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 36 (NeurIPS 2023) Main Conference Track

Bibtex Paper Supplemental


Khai Nguyen, Tongzheng Ren, Nhat Ho


Sliced Wasserstein (SW) distance suffers from redundant projections due to independent uniform random projecting directions. To partially overcome the issue, max K sliced Wasserstein (Max-K-SW) distance ($K\geq 1$), seeks the best discriminative orthogonal projecting directions. Despite being able to reduce the number of projections, the metricity of the Max-K-SW cannot be guaranteed in practice due to the non-optimality of the optimization. Moreover, the orthogonality constraint is also computationally expensive and might not be effective. To address the problem, we introduce a new family of SW distances, named Markovian sliced Wasserstein (MSW) distance, which imposes a first-order Markov structure on projecting directions. We discuss various members of the MSW by specifying the Markov structure including the prior distribution, the transition distribution, and the burning and thinning technique. Moreover, we investigate the theoretical properties of MSW including topological properties (metricity, weak convergence, and connection to other distances), statistical properties (sample complexity, and Monte Carlo estimation error), and computational properties (computational complexity and memory complexity). Finally, we compare MSW distances with previous SW variants in various applications such as gradient flows, color transfer, and deep generative modeling to demonstrate the favorable performance of the MSW.