VITS : Variational Inference Thomson Sampling for contextual bandits

19 Jul 2023  ·  Pierre Clavier, Tom Huix, Alain Durmus ·

In this paper, we introduce and analyze a variant of the Thompson sampling (TS) algorithm for contextual bandits. At each round, traditional TS requires samples from the current posterior distribution, which is usually intractable. To circumvent this issue, approximate inference techniques can be used and provide samples with distribution close to the posteriors. However, current approximate techniques yield to either poor estimation (Laplace approximation) or can be computationally expensive (MCMC methods, Ensemble sampling...). In this paper, we propose a new algorithm, Varational Inference Thompson sampling VITS, based on Gaussian Variational Inference. This scheme provides powerful posterior approximations which are easy to sample from, and is computationally efficient, making it an ideal choice for TS. In addition, we show that VITS achieves a sub-linear regret bound of the same order in the dimension and number of round as traditional TS for linear contextual bandit. Finally, we demonstrate experimentally the effectiveness of VITS on both synthetic and real world datasets.

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