GitHub’s AI Coding Assistant Copilot Launches
GitHub has released the Copilot AI programming assistant as a subscription service. The public launch comes almost a year after GitHub and OpenAI launched a preview version of the virtual coding aide, enticing more than 1.2 million developers to sign up and share their feedback.
GitHub Copilot is designed as an AI “pair programmer,” the junior partner when two developers are coding the same project simultaneously. Human pair programmers collaborate with their partners by offering ideas, spotting errors, and generally improving the final project. Copilot performs the same role from a digital perspective. It adapts to the programmer’s style in order to suggest lines of code, solutions to problems, and possibly useful features. GitHub claims Copilot is writing as much as 40% of the code in the files where programmers deploy the AI and making a fundamental difference in how programmers work. The AI tool is priced at $10 a month or $100 a year following a 60-day free trial, although it’s available for free to verified students and open-source software managers GitHub deems worthy.
“With GitHub Copilot, for the first time in the history of software, AI can be broadly harnessed by developers to write and complete code. Just like the rise of compilers and open source, we believe AI-assisted coding will fundamentally change the nature of software development, giving developers a new tool to write code easier and faster so they can be happier in their lives,” GitHub CEO Thomas Dohmke explained in a blog post. “We specifically designed GitHub Copilot as an editor extension to make sure nothing gets in the way of what you’re doing. GitHub Copilot distills the collective knowledge of the world’s developers into an editor extension that suggests code in real time, to help you stay focused on what matters most: building great software.”
Microsoft, which owns GitHub, invested $1 billion to score an exclusive deal with OpenAI for enterprise versions of GPT-3. GitHub Copilot is the distant descendent of GPT-3 via the OpenAI Codex that Copilot was built on. Copilot extends what Microsoft and OpenAI were already doing with GPT-3 and the low-code Power Apps programming tool, which made it easier to program software with natural language. A separate evolutionary branch of GPT-3 is embedded in the recently upgraded Azure OpenAI Service. While combining natural language processing and software programming is still in its infancy, there are hints it will become a competitive arena. For instance, Google-backed DeepMind showed off its AlphaCode AI in February by boasting that it out-performs Codex, explicitly citing the GitHub product as a rival.