Structured Linear Contextual Bandits: A Sharp and Geometric Smoothed Analysis

Part of Proceedings of the International Conference on Machine Learning 1 pre-proceedings (ICML 2020)

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Vidyashankar Sivakumar, Steven Wu, Arindam Banerjee


Bandit learning algorithms typically involve the balance of exploration and exploitation. However, in many practical applications, worst-case scenarios needing systematic exploration are seldom encountered. In this work, we consider a smoothed setting for structured linear contextual bandits where the adversarial contexts are perturbed by Gaussian noise and the unknown parameter $\theta^*$ has structure, e.g., sparsity, group sparsity, low rank, etc. We propose simple greedy algorithms for both the single- and multi-parameter (i.e., different parameter for each context) settings and provide a unified regret analysis for $\theta^*$ with any assumed structure. The regret bounds are expressed in terms of geometric quantities such as Gaussian widths associated with the structure of $\theta^*$. We also obtain sharper regret bounds compared to earlier work for the unstructured $\theta^*$ setting as a consequence of our improved analysis. We show there is implicit exploration in the smoothed setting where a simple greedy algorithm works.