This paper presents a novel variational inference framework for deriving a family of Bayesian sparse Gaussian process regression (SGPR) models whose approximations are variationally optimal with respect to the full-rank GPR model enriched with various corresponding correlation structures of the observation noises. Our variational Bayesian SGPR (VBSGPR) models jointly treat both the distributions of the inducing variables and hyperparameters as variational parameters, which enables the decomposability of the variational lower bound that in turn can be exploited for stochastic optimization. Such a stochastic optimization involves iteratively following the stochastic gradient of the variational lower bound to improve its estimates of the optimal variational distributions of the inducing variables and hyperparameters (and hence the predictive distribution) of our VBSGPR models and is guaranteed to achieve asymptotic convergence to them. We show that the stochastic gradient is an unbiased estimator of the exact gradient and can be computed in constant time per iteration, hence achieving scalability to big data. We empirically evaluate the performance of our proposed framework on two real-world, massive datasets.
Recent work on scaling up Gaussian process regression (GPR) to large datasets has primarily focused on sparse GPR, which leverages a small set of basis functions to approximate the full Gaussian process during inference. However, the majority of these approaches are batch methods that operate on the entire training dataset at once, precluding the use of datasets that are streaming or too large to fit into memory. Although previous work has considered incrementally solving variational sparse GPR, most algorithms fail to update the basis functions and therefore perform suboptimally. We propose a novel incremental learning algorithm for variational sparse GPR based on stochastic mirror ascent of probability densities in reproducing kernel Hilbert space. This new formulation allows our algorithm to update basis functions online in accordance with the manifold structure of probability densities for fast convergence. We conduct several experiments and show that our proposed approach achieves better empirical performance in terms of prediction error than the recent state-of-the-art incremental solutions to variational sparse GPR.
This work introduces the concept of parametric Gaussian processes (PGPs), which is built upon the seemingly self-contradictory idea of making Gaussian processes parametric. Parametric Gaussian processes, by construction, are designed to operate in "big data" regimes where one is interested in quantifying the uncertainty associated with noisy data. The proposed methodology circumvents the well-established need for stochastic variational inference, a scalable algorithm for approximating posterior distributions. The effectiveness of the proposed approach is demonstrated using an illustrative example with simulated data and a benchmark dataset in the airline industry with approximately 6 million records.
Zero-inflated datasets, which have an excess of zero outputs, are commonly encountered in problems such as climate or rare event modelling. Conventional machine learning approaches tend to overestimate the non-zeros leading to poor performance. We propose a novel model family of zero-inflated Gaussian processes (ZiGP) for such zero-inflated datasets, produced by sparse kernels through learning a latent probit Gaussian process that can zero out kernel rows and columns whenever the signal is absent. The ZiGPs are particularly useful for making the powerful Gaussian process networks more interpretable. We introduce sparse GP networks where variable-order latent modelling is achieved through sparse mixing signals. We derive the non-trivial stochastic variational inference tractably for scalable learning of the sparse kernels in both models. The novel output-sparse approach improves both prediction of zero-inflated data and interpretability of latent mixing models.
While much research effort has been dedicated to scaling up sparse Gaussian process (GP) models based on inducing variables for big data, little attention is afforded to the other less explored class of low-rank GP approximations that exploit the sparse spectral representation of a GP kernel. This paper presents such an effort to advance the state of the art of sparse spectrum GP models to achieve competitive predictive performance for massive datasets. Our generalized framework of stochastic variational Bayesian sparse spectrum GP (sVBSSGP) models addresses their shortcomings by adopting a Bayesian treatment of the spectral frequencies to avoid overfitting, modeling these frequencies jointly in its variational distribution to enable their interaction a posteriori, and exploiting local data for boosting the predictive performance. However, such structural improvements result in a variational lower bound that is intractable to be optimized. To resolve this, we exploit a variational parameterization trick to make it amenable to stochastic optimization. Interestingly, the resulting stochastic gradient has a linearly decomposable structure that can be exploited to refine our stochastic optimization method to incur constant time per iteration while preserving its property of being an unbiased estimator of the exact gradient of the variational lower bound. Empirical evaluation on real-world datasets shows that sVBSSGP outperforms state-of-the-art stochastic implementations of sparse GP models.