Sometimes, one or more preprocessing steps will need to be taken to condition the incoming data for a learner. Some examples of various types of data preprocessing are feature extraction, standardization, normalization, imputation, and dimensionality reduction. Preprocessing in Rubix ML is handled through Transformer objects whose logic is hidden behind an easy to use interface. Say we wanted to transform the categorical features of a dataset to continuous ones using one-hot encoding - we can accomplish this in Rubix ML by passing a One Hot Encoder instance as an argument to a Dataset object's apply() method like in the example below.

use Rubix\ML\Transformers\OneHotEncoder;

$dataset->apply(new OneHotEncoder());

You can chain transformations by calling the Dataset object API fluently.

use Rubix\ML\Transformers\NumericStringConverter;
use Rubix\ML\Transformers\RandomHotDeckImputer;
use Rubix\ML\Transformers\OneHotEncoder;

$dataset->apply(new NumericStringConverter())
    ->apply(new RandomHotDeckImputer(2))
    ->apply(new OneHotEncoder());

Standardization and Normalization#

Often, the continuous features of a dataset will be on different scales due to different forms of measurement. For example, age (0 - 100) and income (0 - 1,000,000) are on two vastly different scales. The condition that all features are on the same scale matters to some learners such as K Nearest Neighbors, K Means, and Multilayer Perceptron to name a few. Standardization is a tranformation applied to the features of a dataset such that they are all on the same scale. Normalization is a special case where the transformed features have a range between 0 and 1. Standardization is often accompanied by a centering step which gives the features 0 mean. Depending on the transformer, it may either operate on the columns of a sample matrix or the rows.

Column-wise Examples

Row-wise Examples

Feature Conversion#

Sometimes we are stuck in a situation when we have a dataset with both categorical and continuous features but our estimator is only compatible with one of those types. For this issue we'll need to convert the incompatible type to a compatible type in order to proceed. Rubix ML provides a number of transformers that will convert your data in a snap.



Although some estimators are robust to missing data, the primary tool for handling missing data in Rubix ML is through a process called imputations. Data imputation is the process of replacing missing values with a pretty good substitution such as the average value for the column or the sample's nearest neighbor's value. By imputing values rather than discarding or ignoring them, we minimize the introduction of bias. The available imputers in Rubix ML are listed below.


Feature Extraction#

Certain forms of data such as text blobs and images do not have directly analogous scalar feature representations. Thus, it is necessary to extract features from their original representation. For example, to extract a useful feature representation from a blob of text, the text must be encoded as some fixed-length feature vector. One way we can accomplish this in Rubix ML is by computing a fixed-length vocabulary from the training corpus and then encoding each sample as a vector of word (or token) counts. This is exactly what the Word Count Vectorizer does under the hood.


Dimensionality Reduction#

According to the Johnson-Lindenstrauss lemma, for every sample in high dimensions, there exists some lower dimensional embedding that nearly preserves the distances between points in Euclidean space. Therefore, it is often a practice to transform a dataset in a way that results in denser features that train and infer quicker relative to their high-dimensional counterparts. Dimensionality reduction in machine learning is analogous to compressing a data stream before sending it over a wire.


Feature Selection#

Similarly to dimensionality reduction, feature selection aims to reduce the number of features in a dataset - however, they work in different ways. Whereas dimensionality reduction produces denser representations using the information contained within all the features, feature selection seeks to keep the best features as-is and drop the poorer ones entirely. Adding feature selection as a preprocessing step can help speed up training and inference by creating a more parsimonious model. It can also improve the performance of the model by removing noise features and features that are uncorrelated with the outcome.


Transformer Pipelines#

You can automate the application of a series of transformations to a dataset using the Pipeline meta-estimator. Whenever a dataset is passed to an estimator wrapped in a Pipeline it will automatically be transformed before it hits the method context. Pipeline objects are also Persistable which allows you to save and load the state of the transformer fittings between processes. Let's say we wanted to build a pipeline to normalize some blobs of text, extract the word count vectors, and then transform them by their inverse document frequency - a common series of data transformations for natural language processing. We could build such a pipeline by passing the transformers in the proper order along with a base estimator to the Pipeline's constructor.

use Rubix\ML\Pipeline;
use Rubix\ML\Transformers\TextNormalizer;
use Rubix\ML\Transformers\WordCountVectorizer;
use Rubix\ML\Transformers\TfIdfTransformer;
use Rubix\ML\Classifiers\GaussianNB;

$estimator = new Pipeline([
    new TextNormalizer(),
    new WordCountVectorizer(10000),
    new TfIdfTransformer(),
], new GaussianNB());