Valko, Michal, Korda, Nathaniel, Munos, Remi, Flaounas, Ilias, Cristianini, Nelo

We tackle the problem of online reward maximisation over a large finite set of actions described by their contexts. We focus on the case when the number of actions is too big to sample all of them even once. However we assume that we have access to the similarities between actions' contexts and that the expected reward is an arbitrary linear function of the contexts' images in the related reproducing kernel Hilbert space (RKHS). We propose KernelUCB, a kernelised UCB algorithm, and give a cumulative regret bound through a frequentist analysis. For contextual bandits, the related algorithm GP-UCB turns out to be a special case of our algorithm, and our finite-time analysis improves the regret bound of GP-UCB for the agnostic case, both in the terms of the kernel-dependent quantity and the RKHS norm of the reward function. Moreover, for the linear kernel, our regret bound matches the lower bound for contextual linear bandits.

de Freitas, Nando, Smola, Alex, Zoghi, Masrour

This paper analyzes the problem of Gaussian process (GP) bandits with deterministic observations. The analysis uses a branch and bound algorithm that is related to the UCB algorithm of (Srinivas et al, 2010). For GPs with Gaussian observation noise, with variance strictly greater than zero, Srinivas et al proved that the regret vanishes at the approximate rate of $O(1/\sqrt{t})$, where t is the number of observations. To complement their result, we attack the deterministic case and attain a much faster exponential convergence rate. Under some regularity assumptions, we show that the regret decreases asymptotically according to $O(e^{-\frac{\tau t}{(\ln t)^{d/4}}})$ with high probability. Here, d is the dimension of the search space and tau is a constant that depends on the behaviour of the objective function near its global maximum.

Desautels, Thomas, Krause, Andreas, Burdick, Joel

Can one parallelize complex exploration exploitation tradeoffs? As an example, consider the problem of optimal high-throughput experimental design, where we wish to sequentially design batches of experiments in order to simultaneously learn a surrogate function mapping stimulus to response and identify the maximum of the function. We formalize the task as a multi-armed bandit problem, where the unknown payoff function is sampled from a Gaussian process (GP), and instead of a single arm, in each round we pull a batch of several arms in parallel. We develop GP-BUCB, a principled algorithm for choosing batches, based on the GP-UCB algorithm for sequential GP optimization. We prove a surprising result; as compared to the sequential approach, the cumulative regret of the parallel algorithm only increases by a constant factor independent of the batch size B. Our results provide rigorous theoretical support for exploiting parallelism in Bayesian global optimization. We demonstrate the effectiveness of our approach on two real-world applications.

Contal, Emile, Perchet, Vianney, Vayatis, Nicolas

In this paper, we analyze a generic algorithm scheme for sequential global optimization using Gaussian processes. The upper bounds we derive on the cumulative regret for this generic algorithm improve by an exponential factor the previously known bounds for algorithms like GP-UCB. We also introduce the novel Gaussian Process Mutual Information algorithm (GP-MI), which significantly improves further these upper bounds for the cumulative regret. We confirm the efficiency of this algorithm on synthetic and real tasks against the natural competitor, GP-UCB, and also the Expected Improvement heuristic.

Krause, Andreas, Ong, Cheng S.

How should we design experiments to maximize performance of a complex system, taking into account uncontrollable environmental conditions? How should we select relevant documents (ads) to display, given information about the user? These tasks can be formalized as contextual bandit problems, where at each round, we receive context (about the experimental conditions, the query), and have to choose an action (parameters, documents). The key challenge is to trade off exploration by gathering data for estimating the mean payoff function over the context-action space, and to exploit by choosing an action deemed optimal based on the gathered data. We model the payoff function as a sample from a Gaussian process defined over the joint context-action space, and develop CGP-UCB, an intuitive upper-confidence style algorithm. We show that by mixing and matching kernels for contexts and actions, CGP-UCB can handle a variety of practical applications. We further provide generic tools for deriving regret bounds when using such composite kernel functions. Lastly, we evaluate our algorithm on two case studies, in the context of automated vaccine design and sensor management. We show that context-sensitive optimization outperforms no or naive use of context.