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# Can a transformer represent a Kalman filter?

*Proceedings of the 6th Annual Learning for Dynamics & Control Conference*, PMLR 242:1502-1512, 2024.

#### Abstract

Transformers are a class of autoregressive deep learning architectures which have recently achieved state-of-the-art performance in various vision, language, and robotics tasks. We revisit the problem of Kalman Filtering in linear dynamical systems and show that Transformers can approximate the Kalman Filter in a strong sense. Specifically, for any observable LTI system we construct an explicit causally-masked Transformer which implements the Kalman Filter, up to a small additive error which is bounded uniformly in time; we call our construction the Transformer Filter. Our construction is based on a two-step reduction. We first show that a softmax self-attention block can exactly represent a Nadaraya–Watson kernel smoothing estimator with a Gaussian kernel. We then show that this estimator closely approximates the Kalman Filter. We also investigate how the Transformer Filter can be used for measurement-feedback control and prove that the resulting nonlinear controllers closely approximate the performance of standard optimal control policies such as the LQG controller.