What is Support Vector Machine (SVM): Python For AI Explained




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In the realm of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML), Support Vector Machine (SVM) is a significant algorithm. It’s a supervised learning model that is primarily used for classification and regression analysis. SVM is a frontier which best segregates the two classes. This article AIms to provide a comprehensive understanding of SVM, its workings, and its application in Python for AI.

The SVM algorithm is a powerful tool in the machine learning toolbox, known for its robustness and efficiency in high-dimensional spaces. It is particularly effective when the number of dimensions is greater than the number of samples. This article will delve into the mathematical underpinnings of SVM, its various types, and how it can be implemented using Python for AI.

Understanding Support Vector Machine

The Support Vector Machine (SVM) is a discriminative classifier that is formally designed by a separative hyperplane. It is a representation of the examples as points in space, mapped so that the examples of the separate categories are divided by a clear gap that is as wide as possible. The SVM algorithm then finds the hyperplane in an N-dimensional space that distinctly classifies the data points.

To understand SVM, it’s crucial to grasp the concept of a hyperplane. In a two-dimensional space, a hyperplane is a line that optimally divides the data points into two different classes. In a three-dimensional space, this hyperplane becomes a two-dimensional plane. In higher dimensions, it can be hard to visualize, but the concept remains the same. The aim of SVM is to find the optimal hyperplane that separates clusters of vector in such a way that cases with one category of the target variable are on one side of the plane and cases with the other category are on the other side of the plane.

Margin and Support Vectors

The margin in SVM is the distance between the nearest data point of each class and the hyperplane. The objective of SVM is to maximize this margin, thereby creating the most robust possible decision boundary. The data points that are closest to the decision boundary (or the hyperplane) are known as support vectors. They are called so because they ‘support’ the construction of the decision boundary by defining where it is placed and how wide it is.

These support vectors are the critical elements of the training set. They are the data points that are the most difficult to classify, and they have a direct bearing on the optimum location of the decision boundary. Any data points that fall on the wrong side of the decision boundary are considered misclassifications. The SVM algorithm tries to minimize these misclassifications.

Kernel Trick

One of the key features of SVM is the use of a technique known as the ‘kernel trick’. In many cases, data is not linearly separable in its original feature space. The kernel trick is a method of using a linear classifier to solve a non-linear problem. It transforms the input data into a higher dimensional space where a hyperplane can be used to separate the data.

The kernel function is used to compute the dot product of two vectors in the high-dimensional feature space without having to compute the coordinates of the vectors in that space. This makes the computations much more efficient. There are several types of kernel functions, including linear, polynomial, radial basis function (RBF), and sigmoid.

Types of SVM

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There are mainly two types of SVM: Linear SVM and Non-linear SVM. Linear SVM is used for linearly separable data, which means if data can be classified into two classes by using a single straight line, then such data is termed as linearly separable data, and classifier is used called as Linear SVM classifier.

Non-linear SVM is used for non-linearly separated data, which means if data cannot be classified by using a straight line, then such data is termed as non-linear data and classifier used is called as Non-linear SVM classifier. Non-linear SVM uses a kernel trick to transform the input space to a higher dimensional space where the data becomes linearly separable.

Linear SVM

Linear SVM is the simplest form of SVM. It works by classifying data into two different classes using a single straight line. This line is the decision boundary, and it is determined by the SVM algorithm such that it maximizes the margin between the two classes. The support vectors in Linear SVM are the data points that lie closest to the decision boundary.

Linear SVM is particularly useful when dealing with high dimensional data. Despite its simplicity, it can be very effective in these situations. However, it is not suitable for data that is not linearly separable. In such cases, a non-linear SVM would be a better choice.

Non-linear SVM

Non-linear SVM is used when the data is not linearly separable. In such cases, a straight line cannot be used to classify the data into different classes. Instead, the SVM algorithm uses a technique known as the kernel trick to transform the input space into a higher dimensional space where the data can be separated linearly.

The choice of kernel function can have a significant impact on the performance of the SVM algorithm. The most commonly used kernel functions are the polynomial kernel and the radial basis function (RBF) kernel. The polynomial kernel can handle data that is separable by a polynomial decision boundary, while the RBF kernel can handle data that is separable by a circular or spherical decision boundary.

Implementing SVM in Python for AI

Python, with its powerful libraries and packages such as Scikit-Learn, provides a great platform to implement SVM. Scikit-Learn is a free software machine learning library for Python. It features various classification, regression and clustering algorithms including SVM.

To implement SVM in Python, we first import necessary libraries, load the dataset, and divide it into a training set and a test set. Then, we create an SVM classifier object and fit the model to our training data. After the model is trained, we can use it to make predictions on the test data and evaluate its performance.

Importing Necessary Libraries

Before we can implement SVM in Python, we need to import the necessary libraries. The most important library we need is Scikit-Learn, which provides the SVM classifier. We also need libraries for handling data and plotting, such as pandas and matplotlib.

Here is an example of how to import the necessary libraries:

import numpy as np
import pandas as pd
from sklearn import svm
import matplotlib.pyplot as plt

Loading the Dataset

The next step is to load the dataset. In this example, we will use the Iris dataset, which is a multivariate data set introduced by the British statistician and biologist Ronald Fisher in his 1936 paper. It is included in Scikit-Learn’s datasets module and can be loaded with the load_iris function.

Here is an example of how to load the Iris dataset:

from sklearn.datasets import load_iris
iris = load_iris()

Splitting the Data

After loading the dataset, we need to split it into a training set and a test set. This can be done using the train_test_split function from Scikit-Learn’s model_selection module. The training set is used to train the SVM model, and the test set is used to evaluate its performance.

Here is an example of how to split the data:

from sklearn.model_selection import train_test_split
X_train, X_test, y_train, y_test = train_test_split(iris.data, iris.target, test_size=0.3, random_state=0)

Creating and Training the SVM Model

Now we can create an SVM model and train it on our data. We do this by creating an instance of the SVC class from Scikit-Learn’s svm module and calling its fit method with our training data.

Here is an example of how to create and train an SVM model:

from sklearn import svm
clf = svm.SVC(kernel='linear', C=1.0)
clf.fit(X_train, y_train)

Making Predictions and Evaluating the Model

Once the model is trained, we can use it to make predictions on our test data. This is done by calling the predict method of our model with the test data. We can then compare these predictions to the actual labels to evaluate the performance of our model.

Here is an example of how to make predictions and evaluate the model:

y_pred = clf.predict(X_test)
from sklearn import metrics
print("Accuracy:",metrics.accuracy_score(y_test, y_pred))


Support Vector Machine (SVM) is a powerful and versatile machine learning algorithm that can be used for both classification and regression tasks. It is particularly effective in high-dimensional spaces and is robust against overfitting. Python, with its rich ecosystem of data science libraries, provides an excellent platform for implementing and experimenting with SVM.

Despite its many strengths, SVM is not without its limitations. It can be sensitive to the choice of kernel and the tuning of parameters. It can also be computationally intensive, particularly for large datasets. Nevertheless, with careful application and tuning, SVM can be an invaluable tool in the machine learning practitioner’s toolbox.

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