GitHub is moving forward with its controversial AI-driven programming assistant, Copilot, adding support for more code editors and more languages.
GitHub Copilot, still in a technology preview stage, will add support for editors including Neovim and JetBrains IDEs, with a focus on JetBrains’ IntelliJ Idea and PyCharm. Copilot was unveiled in late-June with support for Microsoft’s Visual Studio Code editor. Support for the Visual Studio IDE remains in development.
Copilot draws on the context of function names, method names, class names, and comments to generate and synthesise code, providing developers with suggestions for entire lines of code or functions within their editor.
But Copilot has raised some eyebrows, particularly with the Free Software Foundation, which has called it “unacceptable and unjust,” saying Copilot requires commercial software and that it constitutes copyright infringement when using code snippets and other elements copied from GitHub-hosted repositories.
Copilot also has caused concern about possible breaches of software licences and the quality of code it writes. It also has been suggested that a fair amount of human intervention will be needed when working with it.
GitHub’s Ryan Salva, vice president of product, said Copilot provides synthesised code suggestions, not verbatim comments. GitHub has found that code snippet suggestions were verbatim about 0.1 per cent of the time. Safeguards are being implemented to make sure verbatim comments do not make it into code suggestions. GitHub maintains that the publicly available data used to train Copilot is within fair use rights.
Copilot is powered by OpenAI Codex, an AI system trained on a selection of English language and source code from publicly available sources including code in public repositories on GitHub. If the technical preview is successful, plans call for building a commercial version of Copilot.