Latent variable modeling with random features

Gregory Gundersen · Michael Zhang · Barbara Engelhardt

Keywords: [ Probabilistic Methods ] [ Generative and Latent Variable Models ]


Gaussian process-based latent variable models are flexible and theoretically grounded tools for nonlinear dimension reduction, but generalizing to non-Gaussian data likelihoods within this nonlinear framework is statistically challenging. Here, we use random features to develop a family of nonlinear dimension reduction models that are easily extensible to non-Gaussian data likelihoods; we call these random feature latent variable models (RFLVMs). By approximating a nonlinear relationship between the latent space and the observations with a function that is linear with respect to random features, we induce closed-form gradients of the posterior distribution with respect to the latent variable. This allows the RFLVM framework to support computationally tractable nonlinear latent variable models for a variety of data likelihoods in the exponential family without specialized derivations. Our generalized RFLVMs produce results comparable with other state-of-the-art dimension reduction methods on diverse types of data, including neural spike train recordings, images, and text data.

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