Particle-based Variational Inference for Continuous Systems

Part of Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 22 (NIPS 2009)

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Andrew Frank, Padhraic Smyth, Alexander Ihler


Since the development of loopy belief propagation, there has been considerable work on advancing the state of the art for approximate inference over distributions defined on discrete random variables. Improvements include guarantees of convergence, approximations that are provably more accurate, and bounds on the results of exact inference. However, extending these methods to continuous-valued systems has lagged behind. While several methods have been developed to use belief propagation on systems with continuous values, they have not as yet incorporated the recent advances for discrete variables. In this context we extend a recently proposed particle-based belief propagation algorithm to provide a general framework for adapting discrete message-passing algorithms to perform inference in continuous systems. The resulting algorithms behave similarly to their purely discrete counterparts, extending the benefits of these more advanced inference techniques to the continuous domain.