Conversational Coding

Emerging speech-to-code tech helps developers work faster. That’s good news for enterprises and end users.

Back in the day, speaking to inanimate objects was considered weird. How things have changed! Today we ask Alexa for the weather report. We tell Siri to turn up the music, and we command Google Assistant to call the barber for an appointment.

Now, what if you could simply ask your computer to create apps that make your work life easier and more productive, instead of learning a programming language, then hunching over your keyboard to type out lines and lines of code?

This is not science fiction. Our digital tools have grown so intelligent that humans can tell them to spin out more tools. In coming years, these innovations will fundamentally change how companies operate.

Speak for yourself

So far, voice command features have mostly appeared in consumer tech. A father might tell his smart speaker to turn on the lullaby as he changes his baby’s diaper. A driver might tell her phone to navigate to the nearest bakery as she cruises down the freeway. Such use cases have become commonplace because companies want to provide convenient experiences to customers and, in turn, become an integral part of their daily lives.

Yet few businesses seem invested in making the employee experience intuitive or easy for their employees. It’s not for lack of technology. It’s because many business leaders don’t think of work as something that can or should be personalized and engaging. At too many workplaces, employees end up doing repetitive, mundane tasks for which computers are far better suited than humans.

Democratizing code

Companies typically use thousands of individual apps to run the business, some purchased and others developed in-house. Both require highly trained workers to plan, design, test, and deploy the solutions. In In 2019, IDC predicted enterprises would build and deploy 500 million new apps by 2023. Here’s the rub: There aren’t enough professional developers in the universe to build and maintain all those apps.

Enter low-code platforms, which enable non-coders to create powerful apps using intuitive, drag-and-drop interfaces.

However, the rise of low code hasn’t eliminated the need for professional programmers. You still need experienced engineers to make sure low-code apps run effectively and securely. And pro developers have enormous workloads, which increases the need for productivity-boosting dev tools.

That’s where speech-to-code comes in.

AI has grown so sophisticated that it can empower everyday citizens to do things that previously required deep technical expertise—not to mention time.

Cracking the code

There are already tools on the market that use AI to translate human speech into functional code. Instead of using a keyboard and a mouse, a programmer speaks commands to the computer, which then creates lines of code to carry out the task.

Here’s how it works. First off, natural language processing has improved significantly in the past few years. As a result, your machine does a much better job of understanding what you actually want. On top of that, AI has gotten very good at creating syntactically sound code in languages such as Python and JavaScript that will work in real-life situations. It’s also become commonplace for programmers to use tools like Copilot, an open-source service that suggests lines of code to programmers. By some measures, 40% of newly written code is suggested by Copilot.

Speech-to-code democratizes programming, especially for coders with disabilities that limit their ability to type. In coming years, low-code applications as we know them will become more intuitive, supplementing the current graphic interfaces with conversational options. This will help eliminate repetitive tasks so engineers can focus on more complex, creative work.

Chart your own course

Speech-to-code is just one example of a larger trend. AI has grown so sophisticated that it can empower everyday citizens to do things that previously required deep technical expertise—not to mention time.

The creation of new tools is increasingly in the hands (voices?) of those who have a need for those tools. As with all innovations, there will be growing pains. We’ll need to figure out guidelines and work out the ethics of collaborating with AI. But humans are an adaptable bunch.

So yes, talk to your machines at work. Increasingly, their answers will come in the form of new apps that deliver better outcomes for both employees and customers.

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