Bayesian Optimisation over Multiple Continuous and Categorical Inputs

Jul 12, 2020

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Efficient optimisation of black-box problems that comprise both continuous and categorical inputs is important, yet poses significant challenges. Current approaches, like one-hot encoding, severely increase the dimension of the search space, while separate modelling of category-specific data is sample-inefficient. Both frameworks are not scalable to practical applications involving multiple categorical variables, each with multiple possible values. We propose a new approach, Continuous and Categorical Bayesian Optimisation (CoCaBO), which combines the strengths of multi-armed bandits and Bayesian optimisation to select values for both categorical and continuous inputs. We model this mixed-type space using a Gaussian Process kernel, designed to allow sharing of information across multiple categorical variables; this allows CoCaBO to leverage all available data efficiently. We extend our method to the batch setting and propose an efficient selection procedure that dynamically balances exploration and exploitation whilst encouraging batch diversity. We demonstrate empirically that our method outperforms existing approaches on both synthetic and real-world optimisation tasks with continuous and categorical inputs.

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About ICML 2020

The International Conference on Machine Learning (ICML) is the premier gathering of professionals dedicated to the advancement of the branch of artificial intelligence known as machine learning. ICML is globally renowned for presenting and publishing cutting-edge research on all aspects of machine learning used in closely related areas like artificial intelligence, statistics and data science, as well as important application areas such as machine vision, computational biology, speech recognition, and robotics. ICML is one of the fastest growing artificial intelligence conferences in the world. Participants at ICML span a wide range of backgrounds, from academic and industrial researchers, to entrepreneurs and engineers, to graduate students and postdocs.

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