Among the endless cat videos and terrible YouTube comments, we forget the Internet can actually be a useful resource. But instead of relying on some anonymous message board stranger for answers, Google is introducing a neat new initiative that connects real problems to real people that want to help out—all in real time. Hello, Google Helpouts.
Basically, Helpouts is treating the Internet and its inhabitants like one big university, where anyone with any type of problem can get answers from an actual person that knows better. Remember Amazon's new Mayday customer service app? It's a bit like that, but for anything and everything, not just when you need help setting parental controls or figuring out how to set the rotation lock. Categories include art and music, computers and electronics, cooking, and much more. You can even get fitness and nutrition information from a professional—all this happens through actual face-to-face interactions, too.
Let's say you're looking for some home improvement tips. Instead of driving down to your local Home Depot, you can just navigate to Helpouts' Home & Garden section, and browse the available experts. Redbeacon, a Home Depot company, is actually participating in Google's new initiative, so that's one resource you know you can trust. As of now—just for the sake of this article—I checked Redbeacon, and an expert was available immediately—and for free. Other resources, depending on what you want to learn and how complex your problem is, costs a pre-determined amount for a Helpout. Other brands participating include Sephora, One Medical, Weight Watchers and Rosetta Stone, with many more set to sign on.
Since the idea is so new, Google admits that Helpouts won't be flawless, and interacting with a real person might be a little awkward at first. But the goal is to make your life easier, and to provide the best possible answer to your problem; the benefit of speaking to someone face-to-face is getting those nuances of interpersonal communications that sometimes get lost through written text. Since Helpouts is crowd-sourced, you'll be in full control of where information comes from; you can choose who you get help from based on qualifications, availability, price, and ratings. Anyone that believes they're qualified to provide help can also sign up to give a Helpout, and you can even get paid for doing so; either a fixed price or per-minute rate.
So next time you're stuck trying to put a bike back together or need help with a recipe, there's a whole community of humans out there who want to help. The idea is great, and even though Helpouts is small right now, it certainly has the potential to grow into something bigger. Who knows, you might even learn a thing or two.