Google pulled the curtains off its new service and help platform Helpouts a few days ago. Helpouts is something that should tell you that despite Google’s prowess in developing algorithms that tend to understand us more and more and accurately predict what we’re likely to search for next time we type google.com on a browser, that human touch, the human element, in all this is very valuable. That’s the reason for Helpouts’ existence. The goal? To help people help each other.
What is Helpouts? Simply put, it is a mashup of existing Google services like Google+, Hangouts and Google Wallet to provide real time help when you badly need it.
How does it work? Google has assembled a group of people familiar with what you might need to ask about n various fields. These people are the ones who will provide solutions to your problems when you need them so you can as well call them providers. The providers are sourced from trusted companies and brands so that users get “real help” from the horse’s mouth.
This is no different from what we currently have on services like Quora where you have experts in a certain field and from reputable companies giving out answers. But it is geared to be more professional and deliver actual results that impact on people’s day to day tasks, live!
Also, you get to choose who will answer your query based on “their qualifications, their availability, their price, their ratings and reviews”.
Helpouts can be free and for the most part something that you pay for (explains the Google Wallet integration). rates range from free to $2 per minute or $20 per hour. Help with something like how to upgrade your Android smartphone to KitKat may cost at least $1.50 per minute.
The pricing is so that the professionals who are always on call to take your queries can be paid for their services. Everyone likes getting paid for their work, right? The free part – if you are an expert in a certain field and feel like you can help others solve some problems or learn something in the same field then you can volunteer on the same.
While Helpouts will be available for many fields and subjects, Google will not be allowing adult content on the platform so if you thought you would get help with your bedroom issues then this is hardly the platform you should turn to.
Helpouts is a new thing but we can easily make out what will work for it and against it at this moment. The good? You get knowledgeable people in a certain field taking your queries and helping out with your problem in real time. Google does verify these “providers” so you can be sure every help you receive on the platform is indeed professional and of the required standard. This is what sets Helpouts apart from other help forums on the internet.
The bad? Are you guaranteed to have a stable connection when your new car breaks down when you’re headed for the holidays in your rural home and would badly need something like Helpouts? A connection stable enough for a Hangouts session with a “helper” or provider is something you are not guaranteed on the go. Yes you can be sure you’ll get all the help when you’re trying out some funny Northern France recipe in your kitchen but the same can’t be said of some other circumstances when you are far away from your home and using a shaky cellular provider’s signal.
Also, the idea of paying for some virtual help doesn’t immediately sound attractive. A Yoga helpout will cost you at least $30 per session while a cooking helpout will be free. Come on, you can still ask some of your followers on Twitter or your friends on Facebook for help on something you’re making or working on at no extra cost. Still, you can call a friend who is say, a doctor, and get expert advice free of charge not at a rate of $2 per minute. In fact you’ll hardly spend $2 in your entire call.
The idea behind Helpouts is novel to say the least and we should be looking forward to its success as it could revolutionize the way we see and seek online help.
Itching to try out Helpouts? It’s available via web and Android at the moment. It will be a while till it is available as an iOS app since Google does charge for the service in some cases and there are those restrictive Apple App Store rules and Apple would need to take its usual cut (from a service where Google is already taking a 20% cut).