Nyström Method vs Random Fourier Features: A Theoretical and Empirical Comparison

Part of Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 25 (NIPS 2012)

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Tianbao Yang, Yu-feng Li, Mehrdad Mahdavi, Rong Jin, Zhi-Hua Zhou


Both random Fourier features and the Nyström method have been successfully applied to efficient kernel learning. In this work, we investigate the fundamental difference between these two approaches, and how the difference could affect their generalization performances. Unlike approaches based on random Fourier features where the basis functions (i.e., cosine and sine functions) are sampled from a distribution {\it independent} from the training data, basis functions used by the Nyström method are randomly sampled from the training examples and are therefore {\it data dependent}. By exploring this difference, we show that when there is a large gap in the eigen-spectrum of the kernel matrix, approaches based the Nyström method can yield impressively better generalization error bound than random Fourier features based approach. We empirically verify our theoretical findings on a wide range of large data sets.