Why it matters: Google is bringing a fresh touch of AI paint to yet another internet service, providing coders with cheap, accessible resources to run Python code in a web browser. Colab will become smarter and better thanks to machine learning and… Clippy 2.0?

Google Colab has been open for business since 2017, providing aspiring programmers with an easy way to start writing code in Python. Shrestha Basu Mallick, senior product manager at Google Labs, said over 7 million people around the world already use the service to access powerful, cloud-hosted computing resources free of charge – even though Colab also includes a paid user tier with more powerful features.

Colab is based on the Project Jupyter open source developing platform, requires no setup to use, and is especially suited to run Python scripts related to machine learning, data science, and education tasks. The service is now getting even better, Google announced, thanks to the ubiquitous improvements in machine learning and generative AI technology.

Mountain View is adding these new AI capabilities to Colab with advanced features such as code completions, natural language for code generation, and a helpful chatbot. Colab will soon start using Codey, which is a family of LLM models for code generation built on the recently announced PaLM 2 AI platform.

Codey will first be available to Colab users in the United States, providing what Google describes as a "dramatic" increase in programming speed, quality, and comprehension. The first Codey-powered feature is code generation, with a new "Generate" button programmers can use to create entire blocks of code from comments or textual prompts.

The idea behind Colab's code generation is to reduce the time needed for writing repetitive code or trivial Python functions so programmers can focus on more interesting – and likely complex – parts of their project. Colab paid users, Google said, will also have access to an auto-complete feature capable of providing relevant suggestions as they type.

Furthermore, Codey's generative capabilities will be employed to power a new chatbot-based assistant (aka Clippy 2.0 in new AI adventures). Programmers will be able to ask Colab AI programming-related questions, and the chatbot will hopefully provide a non-hallucinated answer with instructions and code samples.

Colab is a service used by millions of students every month to learn Python and access powerful GPU and TPU resources, Google said. Now, the "Colaboratory" tool will also serve Google's need to integrate generative AI into more services and essentially every corner of the internet.