AI Could Soon Let You Code in Natural Language
May 31, 2021
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by Stephen Kanyi

Artificial intelligence continues to be used to make coding simpler. Already AI in the form of system Dr. Repair is already used to solve code errors. Microsoft is however taking this a notch higher with its new GPT-3 model.

Announcing in this year’s Microsoft Build developer conference, the Redmond, Washington-based tech behemoth said they would be using the new AI-powered GPT-3 natural language model to translate ordinary language text into code in its new Power Fx Language.

This would be the first product since Microsoft invested a hefty $1 billion into Open AI last year to gain exclusive rights to the revolutionary GPT-3 model.

Now before you go on celebrating that you could now build your own Twitter with a few clicks it isn’t that simple. Satya Nadella, Microsoft CEO explains that If you can describe what you want to do in natural language, GPT-3 will generate a list of the most relevant formulas for you to choose from.

“The code writes itself”

The main focus here is on Microsoft’s Power Apps low code tools and turn it instead into a no-code tool. Despite Power Apps’ low code nature, one still has to write some code, especially if the application you are building is a little sophisticated.

Microsoft VP Charles Lammana further expounds on this saying “Using an advanced AI model like this can help our low-code tools become even more widely available to an even bigger audience by truly becoming what we call no code.”

In an interview with Wired, he explains that “the sophistication offered by GPT-3 can help people tackle complex challenges and empower people with little coding experience. GPT-3 will translate natural language into PowerFx, a fairly simple programming language similar to Excel commands that Microsoft introduced in March.”

He further adds that the new suite of autocomplete programmes on Microsoft’s Power Platform may help cover the developer shortfall in the market. He told the Verge So instead of making the world learn how to code, why don’t we make development environments speak the language of a normal human?”

Microsoft’s Power Platform was designed for this very purpose. It’s suite of ‘low code – no code’ applications target enterprise customers. They help companies that can’t afford to hire experienced programmers in tackling digital tasks such as data visualization, workflow automation and analytics.

Lammana went on to demonstrate how the software works in an example of an app built by Coca Cola that will help them track supplies of their cola concentrate. He starts by dragging and dropping around app like buttons just like a Power Point presentation.

However, when it comes to creating user buttons that enables users to run specific queries (like, say, searching for all supplies that were delivered to a specific location at a specific time) coding is required, albeit in easy Microsoft Power Fx formulas.

With Microsoft’s updated Power Apps the user can instead simply write their query in natural language. In our example instead of typing a long complex code like “FirstN(Sort(Search(‘BC Orders’, “Super_Fizzy”, “aib_productname”), ‘Purchase Date’, Descending), 10),” one can instead just write “Show 10 orders that have Super Fizzy in the product name and sort by purchase date with newest on the top,” and voila! GPT-3 will produce the required code for you.

This easy to use feature, which will be launched in June, may be a game changer for enterprises globally. It will save developers a lot of time and companies a lot of money in hiring experienced engineers.

It should be noted that this is a relatively new product and thus bound to encounter errors as with any code. Natural language is wide and can be interpreted in a variety of ways. To use this software one still has to have a pretty good idea of what they are trying to build.

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