The mighty Google has just released a new service called Google Helpouts, which offers a live video service which anyone can use to learn about, or get help on, various issues, topics and problems. The idea is brilliantly logical, because it combines the kind of How-To loveliness of YouTube with the classroom feel of Khan Academy, but at the same time because it’s live, you get the personal ‘being there‘ touch.
This is not the first of this type of service, we actually picked up on the launch because of a brilliant piece of guerilla marketing by a rival service called LiveNinja, which has been offering a similar service for a while. We have to say that having taken a stroll around the LiveNinja site, we’re not that impressed with the user interface, so it’s going to be interesting to see how much of a cleaner more accessible offering Google puts up.
The first obvious advantage of the Google service is the fact that there’s no sign-up needed if you’re one of the millions of Google account holders for Gmail or whatever. This makes accessing a course an instant decision, with no hassles with email authorizations and other stuff. It’s a huge benefit.
This also works the other way of course, in that anyone with a Google account can instantly apply to become a supplier of a helpout (is that a word now?) just by clicking a link. This means that suddenly there’s a potential global community just waiting to explode into action, sharing knowledge and information via live seminars across the Internet into the browser.
Right now it’s by invitation only, but we can see that as the service grows and matures, it will become more like YouTube, with moderated content and controls coming from the community itself to help fight spam, fraud and other nasties. Helpouts can be free or you can charge money for your expertise, and while the obvious early targets are things like cooking, tech help and other similar topics that people are interested in, we can easily see this eventually stretching to lesser known pursuits where there is one expert in a country who can share their wisdom with the world easily with just a webcam.
Again, because of the connection with Google accounts, there are other benefits which come as part of the service, including reminder notifications delivered to your computer desktop, an Android app for access, email notifications when the helpout is about to start and the ability to let the system log your scheduled helpouts in Google Calendar automatically. There’s also a function to record helpouts if everyone agrees, and it’s not a health service. There’s lots of rules around refunds and recording and stuff which you can find here.
All in all we think this is a superb idea, and an obvious extension to the Google Hangouts service which has been running on Google+ for a while. The use of live video to bring people together from around the world to learn and share is such an obvious benefit of this thing we call the Internet, that we can only see this type of thing growing hugely over the coming years.
In the meantime, why not check out the helpout topics available and maybe think of something that you’d like to offer the world for free or a fee. It’s an exciting new frontier out there.