March 25, 2023
GitHub Copilot X launched: a look at how coding is changing with AI
GitHub Copilot has come a long way, from an AI tool that helped programmers by auto-completing code to a ChatGPT-like chatbot that developers can invoke whenever they want while coding.
Generative AI is no longer just a buzzword – it is a powerful force already transforming industries around the world, including software development. The software development industry is scheduled to be one of the biggest beneficiaries of AI technologies, because almost every process in it, from design to maintenance, can be improved with the implementation of AI.
GPT-4, OpenAI’s latest major language model, is already capable of writing computer code proficiently in most programming languages. Recently, we saw how GPT-4 could write code for a good 3D game with nothing but short text input from the human end. Demonstrations like these not only cause programmers to fear losing their jobs, but have also worried OpenAI CEO Sam Altman himself.
Whether AI will take over jobs in the near future is debatable, but there is no doubt that in its current state, it has the potential to completely reshape the process of software development.
Early chatbot integrations in coding software
When ChatGPT first came out, it didn’t take long for programmers to start using it for coding. This is not surprising, since OpenAI itself encouraged the use case obliquely – the company had demonstrated the chatbot’s error-detection capabilities at the top of its press release about the launch.
Soon after, developers began finding ways to plug the chatbot’s programming skills directly into their workflows. For example, the extension “ChatGPT” (by Ali Gençay) for top code editing software VS Code allows programmers to communicate with ChatGPT from a conversation window in the sidebar while coding.
However, that plug-in was “unofficial” and it was only inevitable that one of the software heavyweights would launch an “official” version with a neater integration.
Copilot X launch
Enter Copilot X from GitHub, developed in collaboration with none other than OpenAI. It uses the latest, most advanced LLM of the latest – GPT-4.
Copilot X integrates native to VS Code and Visual Studio and introduces a chat interface into the editor. GitHub says it does much more than suggest code: “It recognizes what code a developer has typed, what error messages are displayed, and it is deeply embedded in the IDE. A developer can get in-depth analysis and explanations of what code blocks are supposed to do, generate unit tests and even get suggested fixes for bugs. “
This means, of course, that Copilot will help programmers with much more than just missing semicolons in code. GitHub says it will help reduce standard and manual tasks and make complex work easier throughout the developer lifecycle. “By doing this, we enable every developer to focus all their creativity on the big picture: building tomorrow’s innovation and accelerating human progress, today,” GitHub adds.
But chatting is not the only medium that programmers can use to interact with the chatbot. GitHub Copilot Chat will also join GitHub Copilot Voice, a voice-to-code AI technology that allows developers to verbally deliver natural language prompts. With technologies like this, who knows, we may eventually arrive at a time when programmers need only communicate with their PCs to remove the screensaver.
Copilot will also be used for Pull Requests on GitHub, leveraging the power of GPT-4 to add AI-powered tags to pull request descriptions. A pull request is an event where a contributor asks a maintainer to review code it wants to merge into a project.
Going through dozens of documentation pages can be a nightmare, especially for new team members trying to get up to speed. GitHub Copilot also simplifies the browsing process with a chat interface where developers can ask questions about languages, frameworks and technologies they use.
GitHub Copilot saves time for developers since 2021
But while the above features are all new, Copilot itself is not. GitHub Copilot was initially released in 2021 as an AI-powered tool that helped programmers simply by auto-completing code and saving them time. It used OpenAI’s Codex AI model – a GPT-3 derivative – with its training data, including natural language and billions of lines of code plucked from GitHub repositories and other sources.
Less than two years after its launch, Copilot is already writing 46% of the code and helping developers code up to 55% faster, according to GitHub.
And now GitHub seems to suggest that Copilot X is not just a bunch of features for developers to enjoy. Rather, it is the company’s “vision for the future of AI-powered software development.”
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