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Google unveils Helpout webcam tutorial service

05 Nov 2013
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Google has launched a peer-to-peer webcam-based tutorials service in which users looking for help and guidance on a topic can pay self-reported "experts" for help.

Google Helpouts has launched with the backing of several high-profile businesses including Weight Watchers, Rosetta Stone and One Medical, but mentors without an affiliation to a major brand are able to host sessions, too. Teachers can to set their own prices, either buy the minute or for an entire session.

Google suggests the system could be useful for challenges such as a "homework problem" or fixing a leaky pipe. For computer-based tutorials, Helpouts allows users to share their screens with one another.

Categories include art, cooking and computers & electronics, the latter of which already includes master classes in "falling in love with your business systems", as well as phone contract advice and general technical support.

The programme is not currently open to everybody, with users needing to request and ultimately receive an invitation code from Google before being able to host their own Helpout sessions.

Google has also included the added incentive of a 100 percent money back guarantee if a Helpout session has not proven useful. In order to be eligible, however, users must opt in to their Helpout session being recorded for use as evidence. Helpouts involving medial issues cannot be recorded.

In a post on Google's official blog, the firm's vice president of engineering Udi Manber admitted that the product may take some time before it is widely accepted: "Helpouts may not be suitable for every occasion, and it will take time to get used to interactions via real time video," he said. "We hope that the efficiency, convenience and global reach of Helpouts will make people's lives easier in the long term."

Helpouts is an extension of Google Hangouts, which is part of the Google+ social network. The service received an overhaul last week as it hit a reported 300m monthly active users but seems to have found a niche in the enterprise social network space for customers using Google Apps.

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Michael Passingham

Michael Passingham joined V3 as a reporter in June 2013. Prior to working at V3, Michael spent time at computing magazine PC Pro. Michael covers IT skills, social media, tech startups and also produces V3's video content.

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