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Google offers Helpouts Featured

Web giant Google has announced a new service that will link experts with advice-seekers via video for free or paid advice.

Helpouts, launched today, will mean users will be able to get advice from others, instant or scheduled, based on people's qualifications, availability, price, ratings and reviews.

They can use a computer or a mobile device, provided they have a Google+ account, built-in or external webcam and microphone. Google has also launched an Android app for Helpouts, though there's nothing available for iPhone at the time of writing.

"We want to use the convenience and efficiency of the web to enable everyone, no matter where they are or what time it is, to easily connect with someone who can help," Udi Manber, Google's vice president of engineering, said in a blog post on Monday.

"Help might be a quick answer to a problem you’re having right now, like how to fix your garage door, or how to remove a computer virus; or it might be guidance completing a project, like building a deck. It might be learning a new skill, like how to speak conversational French or how to draw cartoons; or it might be general advice on how to improve your fitness or your writing (I could use this right now).

The service uses Google's Google Wallet payment mechanism, meaning customers will need to set up a Wallet account before they can dive in to Helpout.

Google said it would be offering a full money-back guarantee if the experience doesn't meet the user's expectations.

The company said Helpouts will charge providers a flat 20% transaction fee on all paid, non-health Helpouts, which Google, while there is no transaction fee currently for providing free Helpouts. From 1 January however paid health Helpouts will be also charged a transaction fee.

As it currently stands providers set the pricing and have the option of pricing the service on a per minute or per Helpouts session, or give customers the payment option.

"Today is just the beginning," Manber said in the blog post.

"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."

Current providers on Helpouts include perfume and cosmetics company Sephora, Home Depot and Weight Watchers.

Users will be able to use a number of different tools to aid the Helpout including the ability to take a photo, or to allow the provider access to the user computer remotely to help fix a problem, or to access Google Drive documents, photos, and presentations.

The service is available now for users worldwide. Check it out here.

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