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Phase retrieval (PR), also sometimes referred to as quadratic sensing, is a problem that occurs in numerous signal and image acquisition domains ranging from optics, X-ray crystallography, Fourier ptychography, subdiffraction imaging, and astronomy. In each of these domains, the physics of the acquisition system dictates that only the magnitude (intensity) of certain linear projections of the signal or image can be measured. Without any assumptions on the unknown signal, accurate recovery necessarily requires an overcomplete set of measurements.

Zeroth-order (ZO) optimization is a subset of gradient-free optimization that emerges in many signal processing and machine learning (ML) applications. It is used for solving optimization problems similarly to gradient-based methods. However, it does not require the gradient, using only function evaluations. Specifically, ZO optimization iteratively performs three major steps: gradient estimation, descent direction computation, and the solution update. In this article, we provide a comprehensive review of ZO optimization, with an emphasis on showing the underlying intuition, optimization principles, and recent advances in convergence analysis.

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