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Convex Total Least Squares

Dmitry Malioutov, Nikolai Slavov
Proceedings of The 31st International Conference on Machine Learning, pp. 109–117, 2014


We study the total least squares (TLS) problem that generalizes least squares regression by allowing measurement errors in both dependent and independent variables. TLS is widely used in applied fields including computer vision, system identifi cation and econometrics. The special case when all dependent and independent variables have the same level of uncorrelated Gaussian noise, known as ordinary TLS, can be solved by singular value decomposition (SVD). However, SVD cannot solve many important practical TLS problems with realistic noise structure, such as having varying measurement noise, known structure on the errors, or large outliers requiring robust error-norms. To solve such problems, we develop convex relaxation approaches for a general class of structured TLS (STLS). We show both theoretically and experimentally, that while the plain nuclear norm relaxation incurs large approximation errors for STLS, the re-weighted nuclear norm approach is very effective, and achieves better accuracy on challenging STLS problems than popular non-convex solvers. We describe a fast solution based on augmented Lagrangian formulation, and apply our approach to an important class of biological problems that use population average measurements to infer cell-type and physiological-state specific expression levels that are very hard to measure directly.

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