It certainly has been a long time coming, but Google’s Helpouts app has gone live for Android devices and as an extension within the Chrome web browser.
Google originally announced the Helpouts services quietly back on 20 August stating that the service would be more than just a chat service; it would be a live video help service using the Google Hangouts backbone, allowing users to connect with experts in their chosen field and receive assistance from them either on your phone or your desktop.
Google Helpouts seems like a great idea, but it’s worth bearing in mind that while some individuals and companies offer their support services for free, the vast majority are using Helpouts as a paid service, offering their services for about $1 to $2 per minute. Of course, there are those that are going to charge much more than this, but we recommend having a look through the options available in Helpouts to familiarise yourself with the full range of what’s available.
If you’re interested in offering your own Helpout sessions, you’ll have to be vetted by Google, however the process does seem to be surprisingly easy to get verified by the company.
Google are offering a money back guarantee for your paid Helpout sessions, so if you are not happy with the money you spent on your Helpouts session, they’ll refund it, albeit there are a few clauses in the fine print. Users must be at least a minimum 13 years of age, and a Helpouts provider must be a minimum 18 years of age.
Each Helpouts session is recorded and stored unless the customer opts out. Any Helpouts session that includes a user that is under the age of 18, will always be recorded, for obvious reasons. However, Helpouts sessions that fall under the “health” category may be excluded from being recorded. If at any time a Helpout session is flagged as “Abusive” by the customer, recording will begin immediately, regardless of the previous opt-out.
The Android app itself is pretty simple, with a Google Now-style card interface and a basic directory of providers and Helpout topics. The app is only available to those who smartphone is running Android 4.0.3 sadly, but anyone with a laptop should be able to use the web service as long as they can load Chrome.
This is an interesting if not essential move for Google. It remains to be seen whether this will catch on as an essential service from Google, but there is a good amount of potential here. One can imagine all kinds of possibilities — assistance with fixing a bike that you’ve pulled apart, through to tele-health consultations, and everything in between. It could be a success, or a monumental flop, but of course we’re hoping it takes off.
More importantly, we’d like to know if anyone out there would consider using this service as a service provider. Could you use this as a service as part of your business? If so, we’d like to hear from you.