We study the practical performance of quantum-inspired algorithms for recommendation systems and linear systems of equations. These algorithms were shown to have an exponential asymptotic speedup compared to previously known classical methods for problems involving low-rank matrices, but with complexity bounds that exhibit a hefty polynomial overhead compared to quantum algorithms. This raised the question of whether these methods were actually useful in practice. We conduct a theoretical analysis aimed at identifying their computational bottlenecks, then implement and benchmark the algorithms on a variety of problems, including applications to portfolio optimization and movie recommendations. On the one hand, our analysis reveals that the performance of these algorithms is better than the theoretical complexity bounds would suggest. On the other hand, their performance as seen in our implementation degrades noticeably as the rank and condition number of the input matrix are increased. Overall, our results indicate that quantum-inspired algorithms can perform well in practice provided that stringent conditions are met: low rank, low condition number, and very large dimension of the input matrix. By contrast, practical datasets are often sparse and high-rank, precisely the type that can be handled by quantum algorithms.
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