Google Helpouts, the online video expertise-and-help-when-you-need-it service that was announced in beta in August, is now live and ready to match those who need services with those who want to provide them.
"What if getting help for a computer glitch, a leaky pipe or a homework problem was as easy as clicking a button?" Udi Manber, a Google vice president of engineering, wrote in a Nov. 5 post on the Google Official Blog. "What if you could connect via real-time video to a music teacher or a yoga instructor from the comfort of your home? What if you could get someone knowledgeable to get you 'unstuck' when you really need it?"
That's the idea behind the new service, wrote Manber. "Today, we're announcing Helpouts—a new way to get and give help over live video. Our goal is simple: help people help each other. We want to use the convenience and efficiency of the Web to enable everyone, no matter where they are or what time it is, to easily connect with someone who can help."
Users can sign up for a Helpouts account and then search online for experts in the subjects in which they need assistance, from home repairs to computer help to foreign language lessons and much more.
"With Helpouts, you can choose who you get help from based on their qualifications, their availability, their price, their ratings and reviews," wrote Manber. "You can connect instantly or book in advance. You can get help from individuals or from brands you already know and trust, like Sephora, One Medical, Weight Watchers, Redbeacon and Rosetta Stone."
Users have a wide range of communications options while using Helpouts, wrote Manber. "Once you're in a Helpout, you can do more than just talk—you can share your computer screen, collaboratively edit a presentation or record your Helpout."
A money-back guarantee is also offered by Google if users aren't satisfied with their Helpouts experiences, according to the company.
While the service is going live today, there are only a limited number of services being offered so far, with many more expected to be offered in the future, according to Manber. "Today is just the beginning," he wrote. "We're starting small and in a few categories. The number of people giving help on Helpouts and the type of help available will grow over time."
Helpouts may not be suitable for every occasion, and it will take time to get used to interactions via real-time video. We hope that the efficiency, convenience and global reach of Helpouts will make people’s lives easier in the long term.
Back in August, when Google unveiled the beta of the service, the company began seeking experts to provide Helpouts services to users, signing them up to accounts and helping them to create their service offerings. The idea from the start was to establish experts who would want to create how-to video content that could be used by others to solve their problems and issues in their homes, yards, garages, workplaces and other locations.
Invitation codes were sent out by Google to an unknown number of people to gauge their interest in providing such services, but those who didn't receive a code were able to contact Google to seek a chance to participate.
The Helpouts sessions can be free or can include fees, based on what the two sides decide, according to Google. If the sessions include charges, then Google receives 20 percent of the fees for providing the services. The sessions will be delivered through Google's Hangouts video chat service.
Google is always looking at creating new services and potential revenue streams.
Earlier in August, Google announced plans to replace existing AT&T WiFi service in some 7,000 Starbucks stores with Google's own high-speed WiFi services, which promise to be 10 times faster than the existing AT&T systems they will replace. Starbucks stores located in communities that have super-high-speed Google Fiber service will get in-store WiFi connections that are even faster—up to 100 times that of existing speeds under the deal.
In July, Google presented the city of San Francisco with a $600,000 grant to build a WiFi network that will provide free WiFi throughout the city's 31 parks and open spaces. The grant will cover the cost of needed equipment, installation and maintenance of the system for two years. The installation of the system will begin in December 2013, and all 31 sites are expected to be fully completed and ready for use by the spring of 2014.