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Microsoft deploys GPT-3 to let devs code using everyday language

Developers
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Microsoft has announced its first commercial use case for AI language model GPT-3, for which the company purchased an exclusive license last year.

Developed by OpenAI, GPT-3 is capable of generating accurate passages of text based on only a few basic prompts. Soon after the model was released, one tester also found it could be taught to compose code with just a few tweaks, leading to speculation over how Microsoft might utilize the technology.

At its Build 2021 event, Microsoft has revealed that GPT-3 will be put to work in combination with Power Fx, the company’s low-code open source programming language. The pairing will allow developers to code applications using natural language inputs, expediting application development and helping devs pick up advanced concepts more quickly.

Power Fx / GPT-3

(Image credit: Microsoft)

Natural language coding

From next month onwards, developers will be able to access the new GPT-3 functionality via Power Apps Studio, a Microsoft service used by businesses to develop custom apps and services.

“By fine tuning GPT-3 to understand how Power Fx formulas are constructed, we can leverage the model’s existing strengths in natural language input to give Power Apps makers the ability to describe logic just like they would to a friend or co-worker,” Microsoft explained.

“Now you’ll be able to simply tell Power Apps what you’d like to see - for example, ‘show me customers from the US whose subscription expired’ - and a set of formulas will be presented along with an explanation of how they work. Simply select one to apply to logic to your app.”

In addition, Microsoft is also rolling out a new way to “program by example” using a technology called Program Synthesis using Examples (PROSE). Instead of applying complex formulae to data within galleries and data tables, this new system allows users to manipulate information by feeding simple examples into Power Apps.

For instance, displaying surnames in a data range as initials instead will become as simple as providing Power Apps with a precedent to work from (e.g.: Samantha B.). This formatting will then be applied across all relevant data.

Collectively, Microsoft says, these AI-powered changes will result in marked efficiency improvements for developers.

“Our goal is to democratize app development for everyone and whilst anyone that is familiar with Excel can get going with Power Apps and Power Fx right away and build awesome apps, makers can still spend time finding the correct function and syntax and refining their formula,” added the firm.

“In some cases, particularly for complex formulas, refining and tuning can be tedious, and all makers could be spending their time on more strategic and value-add tasks. AI powered app development will help all makers accelerate app dev efforts and build more complex solutions.”