Documentation>C API
Homogeneous kernel map
Andrea Vedaldi

homkermap.h implements the homogeneous kernel maps introduced in [30] ,[31] . Such maps are efficient linear representations of popular kernels such as the intersection, \(\chi^2\), and Jensen-Shannon ones.

Getting started

The homogeneous kernel map is implemented as an object of type VlHomogeneousKernelMap. To use thois object, first create an instance by using vl_homogeneouskernelmap_new, then use vl_homogeneouskernelmap_evaluate_d or vl_homogeneouskernelmap_evaluate_f (depdening on whether the data is double or float) to compute the feature map \( \Psi(x) \). When done, dispose of the object by calling vl_homogeneouskernelmap_delete.

double gamma = 1.0 ;
int order = 1 ;
double period = -1 ; // use default
double psi [3] ;
vl_size psiStride = 1 ;
double x = 0.5 ;
VlHomogeneousKernelChi2, gamma, order, period,
vl_homogeneouskernelmap_evaluate_d(hom, psi, psiStride, x) ;

The constructor vl_homogeneouskernelmap_new takes the kernel type kernel (see VlHomogeneousKernelType), the homogeneity order gamma (use one for the standard \(1\)-homogeneous kernels), the approximation order order (usually order one is enough), the period period (use a negative value to use the default period), and a window type window (use VlHomogeneousKernelMapWindowRectangular if unsure). The approximation order trades off the quality and dimensionality of the approximation. The resulting feature map \( \Psi(x) \), computed by vl_homogeneouskernelmap_evaluate_d or vl_homogeneouskernelmap_evaluate_f , is 2*order+1 dimensional.

The code pre-computes the map \( \Psi(x) \) for efficient evaluation. The table spans values of \( x \) in the range \([2^{-20}, 2^{8}) \). In particular, values smaller than \( 2^{-20} \) are treated as zeroes (which results in a null feature).


The homogeneous kernel map is a finite dimensional linear approximation of homogeneous kernels, including the intersection, \(\chi^2\), and Jensen-Shannon kernels. These kernels are frequently used in computer vision applications because they are particular suited to data in the format of histograms, which includes many common visual descriptors.

Let \(x,y \in \mathbb{R}_+\) be non-negative scalars and let \(k(x,y) \in \mathbb{R}\) be an homogeneous kernel such as the \(\chi^2\) and or the intersection ones:

\[ k_{\mathrm{inters}}(x,y) = \min\{x, y\}, \quad k_{\chi^2}(x,y) = 2 \frac{(x - y)^2}{x+y}. \]

For vectorial data \( \mathbf{x},\mathbf{y} \in \mathbb{R}_+^d \), the homogeneous kernels is defined as an additive combination of scalar kernels \(K(\mathbf{x},\mathbf{y}) = \sum_{i=1}^d k(x_i,y_i)\).

The homogeneous kernel map of order \(n\) is a vector function \(\Psi(x) \in \mathbb{R}^{2n+1}\) such that, for any choice of \(x, y \in \mathbb{R}_+\), the following approximation holds:

\[ k(x,y) \approx \langle \Psi(x), \Psi(y) \rangle. \]

Given the feature map for the scalar case, the corresponding feature map \(\Psi(\mathbf{x})\) for the vectorial case is obtained by stacking \([\Psi(x_1), \dots, \Psi(x_n)]\). Note that the stacked feature \(\Psi(\mathbf{x})\) has dimension \(d(2n+1)\).

Using linear analysis tools (e.g. a linear support vector machine) on top of dataset that has been encoded by the homogeneous kernel map is therefore approximately equivalent to using a method based on the corresponding non-linear kernel.

Extension to the negative reals

Any positive (semi-)definite kernel \(k(x,y)\) defined on the non-negative reals \(x,y \in \mathbb{R}_+\) can be extended to the entire real line by using the definition:

\[ k_\pm(x,y) = \operatorname{sign}(x) \operatorname{sign}(y) k(|x|,|y|). \]

The homogeneous kernel map implements this extension by defining \(\Psi_\pm(x) = \operatorname{sign}(x) \Psi(|x|)\). Note that other extensions are possible, such as

\[ k_\pm(x,y) = H(xy) \operatorname{sign}(y) k(|x|,|y|) \]

where \(H\) is the Heaviside function, but may result in higher dimensional feature maps.

Homogeneity degree

Any (1-)homogeneous kernel \(k_1(x,y)\) can be extended to a so called \(\gamma\)-homgeneous kernel \(k_\gamma(x,y)\) by the definition

\[ k_\gamma(x,y) = (xy)^{\frac{\gamma}{2}} \frac{k_1(x,y)}{\sqrt{xy}} \]

Smaller values of \(\gamma\) enhance the kernel non-linearity and are sometimes beneficial in applications (see [30] ,[31] for details).

Windowing and period

This section discusses aspects of the homogeneous kernel map which are more technical and may be skipped. The homogeneous kernel map approximation is based on periodizing the kernel; given the kernel signature

\[ \mathcal{K}(\lambda) = k(e^{\frac{\lambda}{2}}, e^{-\frac{\lambda}{2}}) \]

the homogeneous kernel map is a feature map for the windowed and periodized kernel whose signature is given by

\[ \hat{\mathcal{K}}(\lambda) = \sum_{i=-\infty}^{+\infty} \mathcal{K}(\lambda + k \Lambda) W(\lambda + k \Lambda) \]

where \(W(\lambda)\) is a windowing function and \(\Lambda\) is the period. This implementation of the homogeneous kernel map supports the use of a uniform window ( \( W(\lambda) = 1 \)) or of a rectangular window ( \( W(\lambda) = \operatorname{rect}(\lambda/\Lambda) \)). Note that \( \lambda = \log(y/x) \) is equal to the logarithmic ratio of the arguments of the kernel. Empirically, the rectangular window seems to have a slight edge in applications.

Implementation details

This implementation uses the expressions given in [30] ,vedaldi11efficient to compute in closed form the maps \(\Psi(x)\) for the supported kernel types. For efficiency reasons, it precomputes \(\Psi(x)\) for a large range of values of the argument when the homogeneous kernel map object is created.

The internal table stores \(\Psi(x) \in \mathbb{R}^{2n+1}\) by sampling \(x\geq 0\). This uses the internal decomposition of IEEE floating point representations (float and double) in mantissa and exponent:

  x = mantissa * (2**exponent),
  minExponent <= exponent <= maxExponent,
  1 <= matnissa < 2.

Each octave is further sampled in numSubdivisions sublevels.

When the map \(\Psi(x)\) is evaluated, x is decomposed again into exponent and mantissa to index the table. The output is obtained by bilinear interpolation from the appropriate table entries.