Saturating Splines and Feature Selection

N. Boyd, T. Hastie, S. Boyd, B. Recht, and M. Jordan

To appear, Journal of Machine Learning Research, 2018.

We extend the adaptive regression spline model by incorporating saturation, the natural requirement that a function extend as a constant outside a certain range. We fit saturating splines to data via a convex optimization problem over a space of measures, which we solve using an efficient algorithm based on the conditional gradient method. Unlike many existing approaches, our algorithm solves the original infinite-dimensional (for splines of degree at least two) optimization problem without pre-specified knot locations. We then adapt our algorithm to fit generalized additive models with saturating splines as coordinate functions and show that the saturation requirement allows our model to simultaneously perform feature selection and nonlinear function fitting. Finally, we briefly sketch how the method can be extended to higher order splines and to different requirements on the extension outside the data range.