Google have just launched Helpouts, a live chat experience which puts users in touch with experts who can provide advice in real-time, for a fee, or for free.
There’s even a Helpouts for Helpouts, as I discovered when I tried it out this morning. I spoke to Richard D, in Google’s Mountain View HQ. It took a few seconds for me to make sure that my mic and speaker settings were correct – but there’s a chat window so I was able to communicate with him. Video and audio quality were excellent (on my 3Mbps broadband) and Richard was very pleasant and helpful.
The video above suggests that people might use helpouts for cookery or make-up, but the first application I can think of is more obvious: tech support, and specifically Google tech support. Google’s reputation is that of a company that provides all kinds of cool technology, but does not answer the phone. Their support forums are full of unanswered pleas from users as to when they will support X or fix Y.
But the broader implications are for a Helpouts economy. Is your business based on sharing your expertise? Teaching, training, consulting? Need help with your Maths homework? It’s available for $0.95 per minute! The service is integrated with Google Wallet, and afterwards you get to provide a review of the help received so it’s got all the tools to make a marketplace. And if you’re not satisfied, Google says you can have your money back.
Google are approving helpout providers individually – so it could take a while before we start to see Irish providers on the service. There’s a button on each page inviting you to give your own helpouts.