Microsoft’s spreadsheet program, Excel, is getting an upgrade! The clever people at Microsoft are adding AI technology to make it even better. This will help people make and keep their formulas in Excel more easily. It’s called FLAME and it’s a small language model created by Microsoft’s own software developers.
Big language models like OpenAI’s ChatGPT are very popular right now. These models are made by training them on a lot of text so they can predict what to say based on what they’re asked. The issue with these big models is that they take a lot of resources to make and use.
Training them requires a lot of data and money, and using them also takes up a lot of computer power. For example, it took 248 super powerful computer graphics cards and 24 days to train a model called Incoder 6.7B on 159GB of computer code.
Lambda Labs has calculated that making GPT-3, a big language model with 175 billion parameters, costs around 4.6 million dollars using powerful computer chips called Tesla V100. FLAME, on the other hand, is much smaller with only 60 million parameters and was specifically made just for Excel formulas. The researchers didn’t say what FLAME stands for, but it’s probably short for “First LAnguage Model for Excel.”
Even though it’s small, FLAME does a better job than bigger language models made for completing computer code. This includes models like CodeT5, Codex-Cushman, and Codex-Davinci that have 220 million, 12 billion, and 175 billion parameters respectively.
FLAME was created to help people make and fix formulas in Excel, and to help with something called syntax reconstruction which involves taking out extra characters from formulas so the model can understand and put them back together better.
In the future, if FLAME is added to Excel, it could fix formulas like this:
=IF('Jan 17'!B2="", 'Feb 17'!B2="", 'Mar 17'!B2="", 'Apr 17'!B2="", yes)
And turn it into this, using its ability to make corrections:
=IF(AND('Jan 17'!B2="", 'Feb 17'!B2="", 'Mar 17'!B2="", 'Apr 17'!B2=""), "yes", "no")
Because FLAME needs much less training data than other big language models like Codex, Microsoft should find it more affordable to use when it’s ready.
For people who have to work with big spreadsheets that have a lot of formulas, FLAME looks like it could be really helpful.