Published on Sat Feb 06 2016

BISTRO: An Efficient Relaxation-Based Method for Contextual Bandits

Alexander Rakhlin, Karthik Sridharan

We present efficient algorithms for the problem of contextual bandits. Our algorithm BISTRO requires d calls to the empirical risk minimization (ERM) oracle per round. The method uses unlabeled data to make the problem computationally simple.

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Abstract

We present efficient algorithms for the problem of contextual bandits with i.i.d. covariates, an arbitrary sequence of rewards, and an arbitrary class of policies. Our algorithm BISTRO requires d calls to the empirical risk minimization (ERM) oracle per round, where d is the number of actions. The method uses unlabeled data to make the problem computationally simple. When the ERM problem itself is computationally hard, we extend the approach by employing multiplicative approximation algorithms for the ERM. The integrality gap of the relaxation only enters in the regret bound rather than the benchmark. Finally, we show that the adversarial version of the contextual bandit problem is learnable (and efficient) whenever the full-information supervised online learning problem has a non-trivial regret guarantee (and efficient).