Coulomb Classifiers: Generalizing Support Vector Machines via an Analogy to Electrostatic Systems

Part of Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 15 (NIPS 2002)

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Sepp Hochreiter, Michael C. Mozer, Klaus Obermayer


We introduce a family of classiflers based on a physical analogy to an electrostatic system of charged conductors. The family, called Coulomb classiflers, includes the two best-known support-vector machines (SVMs), the ”{SVM and the C{SVM. In the electrostat- ics analogy, a training example corresponds to a charged conductor at a given location in space, the classiflcation function corresponds to the electrostatic potential function, and the training objective function corresponds to the Coulomb energy. The electrostatic framework provides not only a novel interpretation of existing algo- rithms and their interrelationships, but it suggests a variety of new methods for SVMs including kernels that bridge the gap between polynomial and radial-basis functions, objective functions that do not require positive-deflnite kernels, regularization techniques that allow for the construction of an optimal classifler in Minkowski space. Based on the framework, we propose novel SVMs and per- form simulation studies to show that they are comparable or su- perior to standard SVMs. The experiments include classiflcation tasks on data which are represented in terms of their pairwise prox- imities, where a Coulomb Classifler outperformed standard SVMs.