GitHub gives users access to AI chatbot helper for code-related questions

Anna Vod · January 10, 2024 · Short URL:

Copyright and bias issues remain, but the tool promises to be very useful

While some doors close on the use of AI chatbots by big-company employees, new doors to that at-your-fingertips help are opening. Developers using GitHub now have access to its chatbot Copilot Chat to ask questions about code.

First made available for companies as Copilot for Business in mid-2023, it expanded in beta to individual subscribers in September. Now, the tool powered by OpenAI’s GPT-4 is available for all GitHub users, whether they’re using paid or free accounts.

Basically, where you’d earlier turn to documentation or online forums for code-related questions, users can turn to Copilot Chat and get answers much faster. These questions can be about “syntax, programming concepts, test cases, debugging, and more,” according to GitHub, and is not designed to provide information on non-coding questions.

Like in other language models we know, Copilot Chat answers to natural language prompts. The response comes in the form of “generated code, code suggestions, or explanations of existing code.” The uses include writing unit test cases, explaining code in natural language descriptions, and proposing fixes on a code you’d enter.

GitHub adds a disclaimer that Copilot Chat may have a limited scope when it comes to lesser-known programming languages or more complex code structures. It is also biased in terms that it pulls data from existing code repositories and may contain snippets of public code.

As to keeping the code you enter into Copilot from training, GitHub’s VP of product management, Shuyin Zhao, told TechCrunch there is no way to opt out – only by making the repositories private.

GitHub is a cloud-based compute platform widely used by developers and enterprises to build, test, and deploy code. In mid-2018, when it was just a code-repository service, it was acquired by Microsoft in a $7.5 billion stock deal. Over the years, it evolved by adding more features for software development. For one, there’s now GitHub Actions, which makes automating workflows easier with CI/CD.

Another has been GitHub’s introduction of the AI assistant for developers, as described in this story, which runs alongside the AI products in other Microsoft applications.

In fact, on a side note, you can get GPT-4 for free on your mobile with Copilot AI if you create a (free) Microsoft account. Currently, OpenAI charges a monthly $20 for its ChatGPT Plus. Well, Microsoft account holders now have a workaround to the newest publicly accessible language learning model with the Copilot app, described here by in more detail.

The free access certainly won’t solve the profitability questions for modern AI tools. As opposed to traditional software, generative AI relies on new processing each time a user enters a prompt. Many of the large companies building the technology, GitHub Copilot included, have yet to stop losing money.

Image used from: GitHub

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