libsvm for MATLAB

libsvm is a great tool for SVM as it is very easy to use and is documented well. The libsvm package webpage is maintained by Chih-Chung Chang and Chih-Jen Lin of NTU. The webpage can be found here. I made this tutorial as a reminder for myself when I need to use it again. All the credits go for the libsvm developers. Here is how you can cite the libsvm.


In this short tutorial, the following topics will be discussed:
  • How to install the libsvm for MATLAB on Unix machine
  • Linear-kernel SVM for binary classification
  • kernel SVM for binary classification
  • cross validation for C and Gamma
  • multi-class SVM: one-vs-rest (OVR)
  • More ready-to-use matlab example
  • Available matlab codes to download

Here is how to install the toolbox

Just read the readme file in the package. It's very easy. You can do it in both terminal and in MATLAB workspace. On Ubuntu machine, just to make sure you have gcc in your machine. If not, you need to install it using the command below:
sudo apt-get install build-essential g++

Basic SVM: Linear-kernel SVM for binary classification

Below is the first code to run. The code is for binary classification and use the variable c = 1, gamma (g) = 0.07 and '-b 1' denotes the probability output.

% This code just simply run the SVM on the example data set "heart_scale",
% which is scaled properly. The code divides the data into 2 parts
% train: 1 to 200
% test: 201:270
% Then plot the results vs their true class. In order to visualize the high
% dimensional data, we apply MDS to the 13D data and reduce the dimension
% to 2D

close all

% addpath to the libsvm toolbox

% addpath to the data
dirData = '../libsvm-3.12';

% read the data set
[heart_scale_label, heart_scale_inst] = libsvmread(fullfile(dirData,'heart_scale'));
[N D] = size(heart_scale_inst);

% Determine the train and test index
trainIndex = zeros(N,1); trainIndex(1:200) = 1;
testIndex = zeros(N,1); testIndex(201:N) = 1;
trainData = heart_scale_inst(trainIndex==1,:);
trainLabel = heart_scale_label(trainIndex==1,:);
testData = heart_scale_inst(testIndex==1,:);
testLabel = heart_scale_label(testIndex==1,:);

% Train the SVM
model = svmtrain(trainLabel, trainData, '-c 1 -g 0.07 -b 1');
% Use the SVM model to classify the data
[predict_label, accuracy, prob_values] = svmpredict(testLabel, testData, model, '-b 1'); % run the SVM model on the test data

% ================================
% ===== Showing the results ======
% ================================

% Assign color for each class
% colorList = generateColorList(2); % This is my own way to assign the color...don't worry about it
colorList = prism(100);

% true (ground truth) class
trueClassIndex = zeros(N,1);
trueClassIndex(heart_scale_label==1) = 1;
trueClassIndex(heart_scale_label==-1) = 2;
colorTrueClass = colorList(trueClassIndex,:);
% result Class
resultClassIndex = zeros(length(predict_label),1);
resultClassIndex(predict_label==1) = 1;
resultClassIndex(predict_label==-1) = 2;
colorResultClass = colorList(resultClassIndex,:);

% Reduce the dimension from 13D to 2D
distanceMatrix = pdist(heart_scale_inst,'euclidean');
newCoor = mdscale(distanceMatrix,2);

% Plot the whole data set
x = newCoor(:,1);
y = newCoor(:,2);
patchSize = 30; %max(prob_values,[],2);
colorTrueClassPlot = colorTrueClass;
figure; scatter(x,y,patchSize,colorTrueClassPlot,'filled');
title('whole data set');

% Plot the test data
x = newCoor(testIndex==1,1);
y = newCoor(testIndex==1,2);
patchSize = 80*max(prob_values,[],2);
colorTrueClassPlot = colorTrueClass(testIndex==1,:);
figure; hold on;
% Plot the training set
x = newCoor(trainIndex==1,1);
y = newCoor(trainIndex==1,2);
patchSize = 30;
colorTrueClassPlot = colorTrueClass(trainIndex==1,:);
title('classification results');

The result shows:
optimization finished, #iter = 137
nu = 0.457422
obj = -76.730867, rho = 0.435233
nSV = 104, nBSV = 81
Total nSV = 104
Accuracy = 81.4286% (57/70) (classification)

The whole data set is plotted:
whole data set plotted with respect to class labels
The clustering results might look like this:
clustering results using 2-class SVM
The unfilled markers represent data instance from the train set. The filled markers represent data instance from the test set, and filled color represents the class label assigned by SVM whereas the edge color represents the true (ground-truth) label. The marker size of the test set represents the probability that the sample instance is assigned with its corresponding class label; the bigger, the more confidence.  

Kernel SVM for binary classification

Now let's apply some kernel to the SVM. We use almost the same code as before, the only exception is the train data set, trainData, is replaced by the kernelized version [(1:200)' trainData*trainData'] and the test data, testData, is replaced by its kernelized version [(1:70)' testData*trainData'] as appeared below.
% Train the SVM
model = svmtrain(trainLabel, [(1:200)' trainData*trainData'], '-c 1 -g 0.07 -b 1 -t 4');
% Use the SVM model to classify the data
[predict_label, accuracy, prob_values] = svmpredict(testLabel, [(1:70)' testData*trainData'], model, '-b 1'); % run the SVM model on the test data
The complete code can be found here. The resulting clusters are shown in the figure below.

'Linear' kernel
optimization finished, #iter = 403796
nu = 0.335720
obj = -67.042781, rho = -1.252604
nSV = 74, nBSV = 60
Total nSV = 74
Accuracy = 85.7143% (60/70) (classification)

'polynomial' kernel
optimization finished, #iter = 102385
nu = 0.000001
obj = -0.000086, rho = -0.465342
nSV = 69, nBSV = 0
Total nSV = 69
Accuracy = 72.8571% (51/70) (classification)

'RBF' kernel
optimization finished, #iter = 372
nu = 0.890000
obj = -97.594730, rho = 0.194414
nSV = 200, nBSV = 90
Total nSV = 200
Accuracy = 57.1429% (40/70) (classification)

'Sigmoid' kernel
optimization finished, #iter = 90
nu = 0.870000
obj = -195.417169, rho = 0.999993
nSV = 174, nBSV = 174
Total nSV = 174
Accuracy = 60% (42/70) (classification)

'MLP' kernel
optimization finished, #iter = 1247
nu = 0.352616
obj = -68.842421, rho = -0.552693
nSV = 77, nBSV = 63
Total nSV = 77
Accuracy = 82.8571% (58/70) (classification)

 Linear-kernel SVM: 85.7% accuracy
linear-kernel SVM
Polynomial-kernel SVM: 72.86% accuracy
polynomial-kernel SVM
 RBF-kernel SVM: 57.14% accuracy
RBF-kernel SVM
 Sigmoid-kernel SVM: 60% accuracy
Sigmoid-kernel SVM
 MLP-kernel SVM: 82.86% accuracy
MLP-kernel SVM

Cross validation of C and Gamma

The option for svmtrain
n-fold cross validation: n must >= 2
Usage: model = svmtrain(training_label_vector, training_instance_matrix, 'libsvm_options');
-s svm_type : set type of SVM (default 0)
    0 -- C-SVC
    1 -- nu-SVC
    2 -- one-class SVM
    3 -- epsilon-SVR
    4 -- nu-SVR
-t kernel_type : set type of kernel function (default 2)
    0 -- linear: u'*v
    1 -- polynomial: (gamma*u'*v + coef0)^degree
    2 -- radial basis function: exp(-gamma*|u-v|^2)
    3 -- sigmoid: tanh(gamma*u'*v + coef0)
    4 -- precomputed kernel (kernel values in training_instance_matrix)
-d degree : set degree in kernel function (default 3)
-g gamma : set gamma in kernel function (default 1/num_features)
-r coef0 : set coef0 in kernel function (default 0)
-c cost : set the parameter C of C-SVC, epsilon-SVR, and nu-SVR (default 1)
-n nu : set the parameter nu of nu-SVC, one-class SVM, and nu-SVR (default 0.5)
-p epsilon : set the epsilon in loss function of epsilon-SVR (default 0.1)
-m cachesize : set cache memory size in MB (default 100)
-e epsilon : set tolerance of termination criterion (default 0.001)
-h shrinking : whether to use the shrinking heuristics, 0 or 1 (default 1)
-b probability_estimates : whether to train a SVC or SVR model for probability estimates, 0 or 1 (default 0)
-wi weight : set the parameter C of class i to weight*C, for C-SVC (default 1)
-v n : n-fold cross validation mode
-q : quiet mode (no outputs)

In this example, we will use the option enforcing n-fold cross validation in svmtrain, which is simply put the '-v n' in the parameter section, where n denote n-fold cross validation. Here is the example of using 3-fold cross validation:
param = ['-q -v 3 -c ', num2str(c), ' -g ', num2str(g)];
cv = svmtrain(trainLabel, trainData, param);
In the example below, I will show the nested cross validation. First, we search for the optimal parameters (c and gamma) in the big scale, then the searching space is narrowed down until satisfied. The results are compared with the first experiment which does not use the optimal parameters. The full code can be found here.
 Big scale parameters searching
3-fold cross validation "biggest scale"
 Medium scale parameters searching
3-fold cross validation "medium scale"
 Small scale parameters searching
3-fold cross validation "smallest scale"
 Accuracy = 84.29% which is better than using the non-really-optimal parameter c=1 and gamma=0.07 in the previous experiment which gives 81.43% accuracy.
3-fold cross validation clustering result

Multi-class SVM

Naturally, SVM is a binary classification model, how can we use SVM in the multi-class scenario? In this example, we will show you how to do multi-class classification using libsvm. A simple strategy is to do binary classification 1 pair at a time. Here we will use one-versus-rest approach. In fact, we can just use the original codes (svmtrain and svmpredict) from the libsvm package to do the job by making a "wrapper code" to call the original code one pair at a time. The good news is that libsvm tutorial page provides a wrapper code to do so already. Yes, we will just use it properly.

Just download the demo code from the end of this URL, which says
[trainY trainX] = libsvmread('./dna.scale'); [testY testX] = libsvmread('./dna.scale.t'); model = ovrtrain(trainY, trainX, '-c 8 -g 4'); [pred ac decv] = ovrpredict(testY, testX, model); fprintf('Accuracy = %g%%\n', ac * 100);
The codes ovrtrain and ovrpredict are the wrapper. You can also do the cross validation from the demo code below, where get_cv_ac is again the wrapper code.

bestcv = 0; for log2c = -1:2:3, for log2g = -4:2:1, cmd = ['-q -c ', num2str(2^log2c), ' -g ', num2str(2^log2g)]; cv = get_cv_ac(trainY, trainX, cmd, 3); if (cv >= bestcv), bestcv = cv; bestc = 2^log2c; bestg = 2^log2g; end fprintf('%g %g %g (best c=%g, g=%g, rate=%g)\n', log2c, log2g, cv, bestc, bestg, bestcv); end end

The full-implemented code can be found here. Results show that
train vs test set
 row 1-2000: training set.
OVR-SVM classification result
The one-vs-rest multiclass SVM results. Here we do parameter selection on the train set yielding the accuracy for each class:
class1: Accuracy = 94.3508% (1119/1186) (classification)
class2: Accuracy = 95.4469% (1132/1186) (classification)
class3: Accuracy = 94.1821% (1117/1186) (classification)
overall class: Accuracy = 94.0135%

The best parameters are c=8 and gamma=0.0625.

Note when the parameters are not select properly, say c=8, gamma=4, the accuracy is as low as 60%. So, parameter selection is really important!!!!

More examples

You may find the following examples useful. Each code is built for some specific application, which might be useful to the reader to download and tweak just to save your developing time.
  • Big picture: In this scenario, I compiled an easy example to illustrate how to use svm in full process. The code contains:
    • data generation
    • determining train and test data set
    • parameter selection using n-fold cross validation, both semi-manual and the automatic approach
    • train the svm model using one-versus-rest (OVR) approach
    • use the svm model to classify the test set in OVR mode
    • make confusion matrix to evaluate the results
    • show the results in an informative way
    • display the decision boundary on the feature space 
  • Reporting a results using n-fold cross validation: In case you have only 1 data set (i.e., there is no explicit train or test set), n-fold cross validation is a conventional way to assess a classifier. The overall accuracy is obtained by averaging the accuracy per each of the n-fold cross validation. The observations are separated into n folds equally, the code use n-1 folds to train the svm model which will be used to classify the remaining 1 fold according to standard OVR. The code can be found here.
  • Using multiclass ovr-svm with kernel: So far I haven't shown the usage of ovr-svm with kernel specific ('-t x'). In fact, you can add the kernel to any ovr code, they will work. The complete code can be found here.
    • For parameter selection using cross validation, we use the code below to calculate the average accuracy cv. You can just add '-t x' to the code.
      cmd = ['-q -c ', num2str(2^log2c), ' -g ', num2str(2^log2g),' -t 0'];
      cv = get_cv_ac(trainLabel, [(1:NTrain)' trainData*trainData'], cmd, Ncv);

    • Training: just add '-t x' to the training code
      bestParam = ['-q -c ', num2str(bestc), ', -g ', num2str(bestg),' -t 0'];
      model = ovrtrainBot(trainLabel, [(1:NTrain)' trainData*trainData'], bestParam);

    • Classification: the '-t x' is included in the variable model already, so you don't need to specify '-t x' again when classifying.
      [predict_label, accuracy, decis_values] = ovrpredictBot(testLabel, [(1:NTest)' testData*trainData'], model);
      [decis_value_winner, label_out] = max(decis_values,[],2);
    • However, I found that the code can be very slow in parameter selection routine when the number of class and the number of cross validation are big (e.g., Nclass = 10, Ncv=3). I think the slow part might be caused by [(1:NTrain)' trainData*trainData'] which can be huge. Personally I like to use the default kernel (RBF), which we don't need to make the kernel matrix X*X', which might contribute to a pretty quick speed.
  • Complete example for classification using n-fold cross validation: This code works on the single data where the train and test set are combined within one single set. More details can be found here.
  • Complete example for classification using train and test data set separately: This code works on the data set where the train and test set are separated, that is, train the model using train set and use the model to classify the test set. More details can be found here.
  • How to obtain the SVM weight vector w: Please see the example code and discussion from StackOverflow.

List of available matlab codes

 codebinary/multiclass parameter selection
 classification separated/n-fold
 kernel data set
demo_libsvm_test1.m binaryno, manually
 separateddefault (RBF)
 This code shows the simple (perhaps simplest) usage of the svmlib package to train and classify. Very easy to understand.

This code just simply run the SVM on the example data set "heart_scale", which is scaled properly. The code divides the data into 2 parts train: 1 to 200 and test: 201:270

Then plot the results vs their true class. In order to visualize the high dimensional data, we apply MDS to the 13D data and reduce the dimension to 2D
 demo_libsvm_test2.mbinary no, manually separated  Specifiedheart_scale  Identical to _test1 except that it shows how to specify the kernel (e.g., '-t 4') in the code.
 demo_libsvm_test3.mbinary  semi-automatic, but the code is still not compact
separated  defaultheart_scale  Identical to _test1 except that it include a routine searching for good parameters c and gamma
 demo_libsvm_test4.mmulticlass, OVR
 semi-automatic separated default dna_scale This code shows how to use the libsvm for the multiclass, more specifically one-vs-rest (OVR), scenario. For both training and classifying, we adopt the OVR wrapper codes posted in the libsvm website:
  1. ovrtrain.m and
  2. ovrpredict.m
 demo_libsvm_test5.m multiclass, OVR
multi-scale automatic but not perfect separated default 10-class spiral Here both the train and test set are generated from 10-class spiral made available here. The data set is very intuitive.

In this code, we also make a routine to determine the optimal parameters automatically. The user can guess an initial parameter, the routine will keep improving it.

Here we also modify the original train and classify function a bit:
  1. ovrtrainBot.m <-- ovrtrain.m
  2. ovrpredictBot.m <-- ovrpredict.m

Furthermore, the confusion matrix is shown in the results. We also plot the decision values in the feature space just to give an idea how the decision boundary looks like.

 demo_libsvm_test6.m multiclass, OVR
 no, manually
 leave-one-out n-fold cross validation
 default 10-class spiral
 In this code we want to illustrate how to perform classification using n-fold cross validation, which is a common methodology to use when the data set does not have explicit training and test set separately. Such data sets usually come as a single set and we will need to separate them into n equal parts/folds. The leave-one-out n-fold cross validation is to classify observations in a fold k by using the model trained from {all}-{k} models, and repeat the process for all k.

The user is required to separate the data into n folds by assigning "run" label for each observation. The observations with identical run number will be grouped together into a fold. It is a preference to have observations from all the classes within a certain fold. In fact, assigning the run number to each observation randomly is fine as well.
 demo_libsvm_test7.m multiclass, OVR multi-scale automatic, quite perfect
 separated default and specific are fine here
 10-class spiral
 This code is developed based on _test5. What we add are:
  1. better automatic cross validation routine than _test5.m
  2. kernel-specific code snippet

We found that having kernel-specific is much slower than using the default (without '-t x'). At this point, I prefer using the default kernel.

 demo_libsvm_test8.m multiclass, OVR  multi-scale automatic, quite perfect separated default and specific are fine here 10-class spiral The code is developed based on _test7. The improvement is that the automatic cross validation for parameter selection is made into a function, which is much more convenient. The function is


 demo_libsvm_test9.m multiclass, OVR  multi-scale automatic, quite perfect  leave-one-out n-fold cross validation default 10-class spiral This code is an excellent example complete code for classification using n-fold cross validation and automatic parameters selection.

The code is developed based on _test8. The difference is we put the n-fold classification (from _test6) into a function:

 demo_libsvm_test10.m multiclass, OVR  multi-scale automatic, quite perfect separated default 10-class spiral This code is an excellent example complete code for classification on strain-test_separated data set and automatic parameters selection.

The code is developed based on _test8 and _test9.
 demo_libsvm_test11.mmulticlass, OVRmulti-scale automatic, quite perfect  separateddefault and specific are fine here 3-class ring   This code is developed based on -test10, except that the code is made to work for any kernel. However, the results are not good at all. Moreover, the run time is not good either. We found a better way using multiclass pair-wise SVM, which is the default multiclass SVM approach in the libsvm package. In the next version (_test12), we will test the pair-wise SVM. 
demo_libsvm_test12.m multiclass, pair-wise (default method for multiclass in the libsvm package)multi-scale automatic, quite perfect   separated default and specific kernel are fine here. 4-class spiral The code is developed based on _test11. I figure that the function svmtrain and svmpredict, originally implemented in libsvm, support multiclass pair-wise SVM. We don't even need to make the kernel matrix ourself, we you need to do is just pick your kernel '-t x', parameters '-c y -g z', and you will get the results. With this regard, I make another version of parameter selection routine using cross validation:

automaticParameterSelection2.m <only slightly different from automaticParameterSelection.m>

which call the n-fold cross validation classification routine:


I would say this is the best so-far code to run on separated data set as it provides parameter selection routine and the train and classification routines. Very easy to follow.
demo_libsvm_test13.m multiclass, pair-wise multi-scale automatic, quite perfect  leave-one-out n-fold cross validation default and specific kernel are fine here. 4-class ring The code is developed based on _test12. The only difference is that this code use n-fold cross validation when classifying the "single" data set, i.e., the data set where both train and test set are combine together--often found when the number of observations is limited.

This is the best code to use to run on the single data set using n-fold cross validation classification. 

All the code can be found in the zip file here.