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Concept# Feature (machine learning)

Summary

In machine learning and pattern recognition, a feature is an individual measurable property or characteristic of a phenomenon. Choosing informative, discriminating and independent features is a crucial element of effective algorithms in pattern recognition, classification and regression. Features are usually numeric, but structural features such as strings and graphs are used in syntactic pattern recognition. The concept of "feature" is related to that of explanatory variable used in statistical techniques such as linear regression.
In feature engineering, two types of features are commonly used: numerical and categorical.
Numerical features are continuous values that can be measured on a scale. Examples of numerical features include age, height, weight, and income. Numerical features can be used in machine learning algorithms directly.
Categorical features are discrete values that can be grouped into categories. Examples of categorical features include gender, color, and zip code. Categorical features typically need to be converted to numerical features before they can be used in machine learning algorithms. This can be done using a variety of techniques, such as one-hot encoding, label encoding, and ordinal encoding.
The type of feature that is used in feature engineering depends on the specific machine learning algorithm that is being used. Some machine learning algorithms, such as decision trees, can handle both numerical and categorical features. Other machine learning algorithms, such as linear regression, can only handle numerical features.
A numeric feature can be conveniently described by a feature vector. One way to achieve binary classification is using a linear predictor function (related to the perceptron) with a feature vector as input. The method consists of calculating the scalar product between the feature vector and a vector of weights, qualifying those observations whose result exceeds a threshold.
Algorithms for classification from a feature vector include nearest neighbor classification, neural networks, and statistical techniques such as Bayesian approaches.

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