Google Helpouts Promises ‘Real Help from Real People in Real Time’ — for a Price

Want to learn how to play the guitar? Teach someone yourself?

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You know how nowadays when you need help with something, you might Skype or FaceTime with someone in lieu of actual face time? Have conversations that sometimes involve the phrases “You’re frozen again!” and “Can you still hear me?”

Google wants to bring that into our living rooms, live video and all. It’s called Google Helpouts (because MeetingPlace was taken, and Helpouts is hipper, or would that be hipster-er?) and some of the people who currently appear there will chat with you for free. Others — the majority, that is — will charge you a flat fee per session, or a dollar amount per minute.

If, for instance, you want to “discuss workout plans, exercise technique, injuries (like back pain), nutrition” with Ben Matlak, a personal trainer and strength coach with multiple certs, he’ll be happy to schedule a session with you for $20 a pop — or $1 a minute. If you’d rather learn to play the guitar, read music, improvise over chord changes, write charts for a band and pickup songs by ear, Musician’s Institute (GIT) graduate Rob Michael will give you an hour for $75.

Once you’ve connected to a Helpout, you can not only talk, but share your computer screen as well (say you need to share notes or collaborate on something). And if the experience doesn’t live up to your expectations, Google says it’s offering a full money-back guarantee.

Adds Google:

Today is just the beginning. We’re starting small and in a few categories. The number of people giving help on Helpouts and the type of help available will grow over time. Helpouts may not be suitable for every occasion, and it will take time to get used to interactions via real time video. We hope that the efficiency, convenience and global reach of Helpouts will make people’s lives easier in the long term.

It’s an interesting idea — in fact you might call it a marketplace for live video ideas in the “for Dummies” vein; not for dummies, in other words, but average, ordinary people looking for advice on or basic instruction in or insight into a given topic. The topics range from music to cooking and computers to fashion and beauty, the idea presumably being that eventually the site could have a Helpout for anything, novice to whiz. I’m not sure what a “natural hair vlogger” is, but you can find out from Alicia James, whose bragging rights include combined sites with over five million views and 80,000 subscribers.

I’d be wary of those initial reviews; the trouble with online reviews notwithstanding, they’re all suspiciously five-star, though who knows, maybe I’m being too cynical. I don’t recognize any of the names in music or tech — areas I follow — but that’s probably part of the point. The world is full of talented people, some incredibly so, who you’ve never heard of (YouTube’s more than proven this). And to mitigate ineptitude or out-and-out scams, Google’s folded in a social credibility system and tied it off with a money-back bow.

I’m intrigued. And I guess I’m glad it costs something (in most cases) rather than nothing. I haven’t tried a session yet, but I assume these things are ad-free, as they should be (I suppose each session is an advertisement unto itself). How do you run your own Helpout? Google’s only bringing people in by invitation just now, but you can request an invite code here.