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Imagine you’ve gotten into a situation that’s a bit over your head — a catering job, a DIY project, a medical emergency, whatever — and you need help from an expert.

Google wants to put you instantly face-to-face with someone who can help, through a new service called Helpouts.

This service marries the video chat features of Hangouts with the payment processing of Google Wallet, the identity management of Google+, and a slew of other Google service features. The end result is a gorgeous Frankenstein monster that lets you find expert help instantly via video.

Check it out:


At a press conference today in San Francisco, Googlers demonstrated some very basic ways to use Helpouts: Get a makeup artist to show you how to do the perfect red lip, or ask a chef how to zest a lemon. These are silly, of course, but we can imagine Helpouts being useful in other cases — like doing your makeup for your first drag show, rebuilding an MG-B engine, or constructing a three-tier wedding cake.

The Google Helpout is for those times when a dozen YouTube tutorials just won’t do, when you feel stuck, or when you’re just purely, insufferably incompetent.

With the push of a button, you can be face-to-face with a topic expert in a Helpout. He or she can watch what you’re doing, offer suggestions, walk you through your project step-by-step — as much direction as you need.

These experts can also choose to charge you for their time. You check out using Google Wallet (Google takes a 20 percent cut), and you can rate and leave reviews when your Helpout is over.

Google Helpouts

Best of all, it will launch as a HIPAA-compliant and secure product for health care professionals, from therapists and psychiatrists to surgeons and pediatricians.

Google reps tell us the platform will offer no adult content whatsoever. Both the experts and users can report abuse of the platform while the session is going on, and any party can block any other entity.

Google Helpouts will launch soon in English and French in the UK, Ireland, the U.S., and Canada. The plan is to start small with a hand-picked group of “helper-outers” (our term) in a small number of categories (home improvement, beauty, and fashion, etc.) and see how it grows and how consumers respond.

Google Helpouts is its own separate division within Google, but it uses all existing Google technologies.

“Being able to innovate is much better if you have pieces already built,” said Google engineering VP Udi Manber at the meeting.

“We plan to extend it and make it very usable.” (That means an API is in the works.)

Stay tuned for more tomorrow morning, when you (and we) will be wide awake and ready to talk turkey about why Helpouts works, for whom it works, and why it was absolutely necessary for Google to launch this weird little platform.

Here’s a look at various parts of the Helpouts interface:

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