Practical Contextual Bandits with Regression Oracles

Dylan J. Foster, Alekh Agarwal, Miroslav Dudík, Haipeng Luo, Robert E. Schapire

A major challenge in contextual bandits is to design general-purpose algorithms that are both practically useful and theoretically well-founded. We present a new technique that has the empirical and computational advantages of realizability-based approaches combined with the flexibility of agnostic methods. Our algorithms leverage the availability of a regression oracle for the value-function class, a more realistic and reasonable oracle than the classification oracles over policies typically assumed by agnostic methods. Our approach generalizes both UCB and LinUCB to far more expressive possible model classes and achieves low regret under certain distributional assumptions. In an extensive empirical evaluation, compared to both realizability-based and agnostic baselines, we find that our approach typically gives comparable or superior results.

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