Linear predictors are simple and we know how to select the parameters. The main downside is that there may not be a linear relationship between inputs and outputs.

A feature map (or regression function) for outputs $A$ is a mapping $\phi : A \to \R ^d$. In this setting, we call $a \in A$ the raw input record and we call $\phi (a)$ an embedding, feature embedding or feature vector. We call the components of a feature vector the features. We call $\phi (A)$ the regression range.

A feature map is faithful if, whenever records $a_i$ and $a_j$ are in some sense “similar” in the set $A$, the embeddings $\phi (a_i)$ and $\phi (a_j)$ are close in the vector space $\R ^d$.

Since it is common for raw input records $a \in A$ to consist of many fields, it is regular to have several feature maps $\phi _i$ which operate component-wise on the fields of $a$. These are sometimes called basis functions, by analogy with real function approximators (see Real Function Approximators). We concatenate these field feature maps and commonly add a constant feature $1$. Since $\R ^d$ is a vector space, it is common to refer to it in this case as the feature space.

Given a dataset $a = (a^1, \dots , a^n)$ in $A$ and a feature map $\phi : A \to \R ^d$, the embedded dataset of $a$ with respect to $\phi $ is the dataset $(\phi (a^1), \dots , \phi (a^n)$ in $\R ^d$.

Recall that a dataset is parametrically consistent with the family $\set{h_{\theta }: X \to Y}_{\theta }$ if there exists $\theta ^\star$ so that the dataset is consistent with $\theta ^{\star}$. We saw how to pick $\theta $ if we use a linear model with a squared loss (see Least Squares Linear Regressors).

Let $\mathcal{G} = \set{g_{\theta }: \R ^d \to \R }_{\theta }$. A dataset is featurized parametrically consistent with respect to the family $\mathcal{G} $ and the feature map $\phi : X \to \R ^d$ if it is parametrically consistent with respect to $\mathcal{G} \circ \phi = \Set*{g \circ \phi }{g \in \mathcal{G} }$.

The interpretation is that we have transformed
the problem of selecting a predictor on an
arbitrary space $X$ to the problem of selecting
a predictor on the space $\R ^d$.
In so doing, we can continue to use simple
predictors, such as those that are linear and
minimize the squared error on the dataset.^{1}

In other words, we have “shifted emphasis” from the model function $h: X \to \R $ to the regression function from $\R ^d \to \R $. If we know the features and the input $x$, then we know the regression vector $\phi (x)$. The regression range is the set $\Set*{\phi (x)}{x \in X}$. In this case linearity pertains to the parameters $\theta \in \R ^d$ instead of the inputs (or experimental conditions) $x \in X$.

- Future editions are likely to modify this section. ↩︎