| SAN FRANCISCO
SAN FRANCISCO Nov 4 Google Inc is
launching a service that lets consumers pay for live video chats
with experts who can provide everything from step-by-step turkey
cooking instructions to marriage counseling.
The Google Helpouts service, introduced on Monday, features
roughly 1,000 partners in fashion, fitness, computers and other
topics, available for live, one-on-one video consultations. The
video sessions can be as short as a few minutes or can last
several hours, depending on the topic, with pricing set by each
The video consultations represent an expansion of Google's
traditional Web search service, which for years has answered
consumers' questions by pointing people to the most appropriate
While Google remains the world's No.1 Internet search
engine, consumers are increasingly turning to social networks
like Facebook Inc to get advice and recommendations from
their friends about movies, restaurants and other topics.
"Most of the world's useful information still resides in
people's heads," Udi Manber, vice president of engineering at
Google said at a small briefing with reporters in San Francisco
on Monday. Helpouts "opens the door to that information as
Manber said that Google will initially provide tight
oversight of the Helpouts website, deciding which types of
services can be offered on Helpouts. For providers of medical
consultations, Google will conduct background checks to ensure
that the provider has valid credentials.
In addition to individual experts, large brands such as
Sephora, Weight Watchers and Rosetta Stone will also be offering
video sessions on the Helpouts service.
Google will take 20 percent of the fee that the providers
collect from consumers for the video chats, though Google is
initially waving the transaction fee for providers in the Health
Consumers can leave reviews of the different video chat
experts and Google will refund consumers who are not satisfied
with their video consultation, the company said.