Photo: Courtesy of Google.
Some of us are shut-ins. We long for the future when we can simply send our holograms to the store to pick up almond milk and make chitchat with our super, while we sit at home and avoid all physical human contact. Google, thankfully, is bringing us even closer to that reality. Today, the company launched its new Helpouts service, which remotely connects people with experts on a variety of topics.
This is not only a boon for hermits. Anyone, even the socially adept, can drop a few bucks and schedule a teleconference with a professional in disciplines as diverse as world literature, yoga, and lawn care. All you need is a computer with a camera and microphone, an Internet connection, and a free Google+ account.
As for the experts, Google has over 1,000 on board. Some are individuals with a particular scope of knowledge, while others are provided by companies specializing in a given field. Sephora's staff will help you with makeup applications, Kitchit instructs neophyte cooks, and the orange-aproned domestic experts at Home Depot can teach you to fix a creaky hinge.
Within the health field, counselors, nutritionists, nurses, and veterinarians can provide some basic advice. ( Web Therapy, anyone?) You don't need to worry too much about being connected with a quack — not any more than you would in the physical world, anyway — as Google verifies credentials for all of its medical experts. Your privacy is maintained, too, because and these Helpouts are also HIPAA compliant.
Some of the Helpouts are more obviously useful than others — $25 for an hour of modeling career advice versus a one-on-one with a guy who will help you repair your forced-air gas furnace — but most all of them are affordable, around $15 to $25 per session, and many are free. The demand for such a service surely exists; CNN points to a Pew study from earlier this year that found that 56 percent of adults Internet users watch how-to videos online.
To get started, you can simply browse available Helpouts, or enter a specific search. The algorithms aren't perfect, though. You enter your query in a search bar that reads "I need help with..." A search for "my oozing sore" yielded zero results, but "my cat" brought up a veterinary hospital, a college admissions counselor, and an ashtanga yoga instructor. A "cookies" search, however, was populated with appropriate Helpouts from bakers.