It's been a long time coming, but Google's distributed video advice service is finally live. Helpouts is a video chat service with a Google backbone, built on the interface and servers of Hangouts. But this is no mere chat service: it's designed specifically for users to connect with and learn from experts in their respective field. You can access the videos from the web or, naturally, the Android app.
Since you'll be connecting with individuals and companies that are ostensibly experts, you'll have to pay them for their time, either on a minute-by-minute basis or in a session fee. (Some are considerably more expensive, while a very small amount are free.) At the moment it looks like most of the initial Helpouts partners are offering sessions at about a dollar a minute, in such wide categories as math tutoring, modeling advice, or guitar lessons (lots of guitar lessons). If you're interested in offering your own Helpout sessions, you'll have to be vetted by Google - click here for the signup page. At least one Android Police writer has jumped through the hoops and found it surprisingly easy to get verified.
At the moment Google is offering a money back guarantee for your paid Helpout sessions. If you're not satisfied with your money spent, they'll refund it, with a few clauses in the fine print. There are some other things to be aware of as well - customers must be 13 (though I imagine parents paying for sessions, especially tutoring and lessons, is acceptable) while a Helpout provider must be 18. Each session is recorded and stored unless the customer opts out, and any Helpouts session that includes a user under the age of 18 will always be recorded, for obvious reasons, though those that fall under the "Health" category may be excluded. A Helpout session that's flagged as "Abusive" by the customer will begin recording immediately, regardless of the previous opt-out.
The app itself is pretty simple, with a Google Now-style card interface and a basic directory of providers and Helpout topics. Unfortunately you'll need to be running Android 4.0.3 to use the app, but anyone with a laptop should be able to use the web service. This is an interesting move for Google - I'm keen to see if it catches on. I could easily see Helpouts booming into a healthy cottage industry... but I could also see it fizzling out and being cancelled in a year or two.