Google wants to provide more help than what its search engine currently does, so it came up with a product that allows human experts to answers questions using a new real-time online video streaming service.
Dubbed as Helpouts, the new tool connects users with experts who will try to answer questions – such as cooking, home improvement, medical recommendations, and so on – through a live online video chat
Helpouts functions as a marketplace, monitored by Google, in which authorized or sanctioned companies – such as One Medical, Sephora, and Rosetta Stone – may provide services to interested users over a real-time video chat.
Google said it has yet invited a thousand companies to take part, and intends to keep it invitation only for an unspecified test period.
Helpouts allows companies to set charges for the services they provide per session or per minute, but the online search giant, even though it receives a 20 percent cut from each transaction, expects some free services to turn up.
Users may instantly talk to an available expert or set up an appointment with a certain service provider.
Google Engineering VP UDi Manber said Helpouts opens to the world the knowledge inside the heads of experts.
Manber said the service plays up other Google products and services, such as online search for experts or service providers through Google Search, actual videoconferences through Google Hangouts, accepted payments only through Google Wallet, and a Google+ profile requirement to join Helpouts – a way for Google to ensure a safe environment to transact online with real people’s identities.
The safety concern is bolstered up when users connect with strangers over video and when they pay for the services provided, so Google imposed protections to prevent safety issues.
For instance, users may exit a video call anytime during the conversation and report the service provider or user for any type of misconduct or inappropriate behavior.
Manber opposed plans to allow “adult uses” for Helpouts.
Helpouts Product Management Director Osi Imeokparia said Google has to invite qualified companies that may have a relevant service to offer on the platform, and these companies’ so-called experts are carefully examined and verified.
After a Helpout connection, users are notified to provide feedback, so users who think they were ripped off may request a refund, and if there is enough grounds for the claim, Google will pay for a full refund.
Google will make a session free of charge once a vendor is more than five minutes late to a scheduled videoconference or claims availability but will not connect with a help seeker.
The main concern for most users – and possibly, watchdogs – is privacy over personal information and medical records given to health and wellness service providers such as psychotherapists.
Google assured that Helpouts comes with an HIPAA certification to uphold the essential precautions and safeguards in regard to the online privacy of patient information.
Helpouts is still new for people to scrutinize, and Google has yet to show intentions to partner with medical insurance providers in order to compete with the free or discounted medical coverage provided by walk-in clinics.
In addition, Helpout only accepts Google Wallet as the mode of payment, so users have to create a wallet, or use other services that provide free consultations.