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Notre Dame Researchers Aim to Create Siri for Software Engineers

A group of researchers at the University of Notre Dame are working to create a virtual assistant, like Apple's Siri or Amazon's Alexa, for software engineers.

Existing virtual assistants like Siri and Alexa aren't suitable for software engineers because they are trained to respond to natural language, rather than the technical jargon of software engineers. Engineers can, of course, ask other engineers for help answering their questions, or they can find the answer themselves and document the process as they move through it for their own future use or the use of other engineers.

But that process takes a great deal of time.

Collin McMillan, an assistant professor in Notre Dame's Department of Computer Science and Engineering, says he believes his team can create a virtual assistant for programmers after solving a pair of challenges. First they need to identify how software engineers talk to each other and what kinds of questions they tend to ask. Second, the team needs to understand how they describe functions and software artifacts.

"The three-year project that McMillan and his team have begun will create a model of the conversations between programmers," according to a university news release. "From there they will generate expressions that refer to software components in a human-like manner so that they can design algorithms to extract the data to make similar references as part of a knowledge base so the new virtual assistant could respond as quickly and accurately as a Siri or Alexa. Finally, they would test their techniques in the lab and in real-life settings to determine its effectiveness."

About the Author

Joshua Bolkan is contributing editor for Campus Technology, THE Journal and STEAM Universe. He can be reached at [email protected].

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