Google Announces Helpouts

John Krautzel
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At any given time, Google has a number of new products it is working on, some with more success than others. For every unsuccessful and shuttered project like Google Wave, there are many more success stories, such as the Android operating system. The company's newest offering, Google Helpouts, aims to help users with just about any problem they may have, ranging from gardening advice to applying cosmetics.

The latest in a long line of Google projects, Google Helpouts is a marketplace where users can turn to experts for help with problems or questions they have. Consumers simply search the marketplace and are presented with a list of vendors who can offer help for their particular issue. Users then start a webcam session where they get help from the expert vendor in real time. It is essentially an extension of their search function, only this time, users get to talk to a human being to get advice. Google Helpouts also encourages the use of other Google services, because you have to have a Google+ account to access the service, and payments, if any, are made through Google Wallet.

Though the company's search engine function is free, not everything on Google Helpouts will be free. While some companies will offer free advice or sessions, others may charge a fee for their services. The fees would be set by vendors, all of whom have been vetted and approved by Google. In fact, vendors who are participating in Google Helpouts have to be invited by the company to be a part of the project. There is no open enrollment, which helps to reduce the chance that users will be taken advantage of by scammers who are not real experts. There are other safeguards in place to protect consumers, such as the ability to report any vendor they feel harassed them to customer service reps, and webcam sessions can be terminated at any time by users.

The service is still relatively new, which means that like all Google projects, changes and improvements can be made. One such improvement is the announcement of a new wearable camera that can be used during sessions so that users can see things from the vendor's point of view, or vice versa. The public will get its first look at the new technology in January 2014 at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.

Google has dominated in the search engine arena for years, so the next logical extension of helping people find information is allowing them to get that help live from a human being. Google Helpouts is the company's way of getting users to not only turn to Google for help first but also use other Google services. With improvements already coming, this might just be another in a long line of successful projects for the tech giant.


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