Orthogonally Decoupled Variational Gaussian Processes

Part of Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 31 (NeurIPS 2018)

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Hugh Salimbeni, Ching-An Cheng, Byron Boots, Marc Deisenroth


Gaussian processes (GPs) provide a powerful non-parametric framework for reasoning over functions. Despite appealing theory, its superlinear computational and memory complexities have presented a long-standing challenge. State-of-the-art sparse variational inference methods trade modeling accuracy against complexity. However, the complexities of these methods still scale superlinearly in the number of basis functions, implying that that sparse GP methods are able to learn from large datasets only when a small model is used. Recently, a decoupled approach was proposed that removes the unnecessary coupling between the complexities of modeling the mean and the covariance functions of a GP. It achieves a linear complexity in the number of mean parameters, so an expressive posterior mean function can be modeled. While promising, this approach suffers from optimization difficulties due to ill-conditioning and non-convexity. In this work, we propose an alternative decoupled parametrization. It adopts an orthogonal basis in the mean function to model the residues that cannot be learned by the standard coupled approach. Therefore, our method extends, rather than replaces, the coupled approach to achieve strictly better performance. This construction admits a straightforward natural gradient update rule, so the structure of the information manifold that is lost during decoupling can be leveraged to speed up learning. Empirically, our algorithm demonstrates significantly faster convergence in multiple experiments.