Open Access Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University of Wellington
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Gaussian Processes for Regression and Optimisation

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posted on 2021-11-05, 02:20 authored by Boyle, Phillip

Gaussian processes have proved to be useful and powerful constructs for the purposes of regression. The classical method proceeds by parameterising a covariance function, and then infers the parameters given the training data. In this thesis, the classical approach is augmented by interpreting Gaussian processes as the outputs of linear filters excited by white noise. This enables a straightforward definition of dependent Gaussian processes as the outputs of a multiple output linear filter excited by multiple noise sources. We show how dependent Gaussian processes defined in this way can also be used for the purposes of system identification. Onewell known problem with Gaussian process regression is that the computational complexity scales poorly with the amount of training data. We review one approximate solution that alleviates this problem, namely reduced rank Gaussian processes. We then show how the reduced rank approximation can be applied to allow for the efficient computation of dependent Gaussian processes. We then examine the application of Gaussian processes to the solution of other machine learning problems. To do so, we review methods for the parameterisation of full covariance matrices. Furthermore, we discuss how improvements can be made by marginalising over alternative models, and introduce methods to perform these computations efficiently. In particular, we introduce sequential annealed importance sampling as a method for calculating model evidence in an on-line fashion as new data arrives. Gaussian process regression can also be applied to optimisation. An algorithm is described that uses model comparison between multiple models to find the optimum of a function while taking as few samples as possible. This algorithm shows impressive performance on the standard control problem of double pole balancing. Finally, we describe how Gaussian processes can be used to efficiently estimate gradients of noisy functions, and numerically estimate integrals.


Copyright Date


Date of Award



Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Rights License

Author Retains Copyright

Degree Discipline

Computer Science

Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Degree Level


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Doctoral Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

School of Mathematics, Statistics and Computer Science


Frean, Marcus