Dubbed Google Helpouts, the service features roughly 1,000 partners in fashion, fitness, computers and other topics, available for live, one-on-one video consultations. The video sessions can be as short as a few minutes or can last several hours, depending on the topic, with pricing set by each individual provider.
The video consultations represent an expansion of Google's traditional Web search service, which for years has answered consumers' questions by pointing people to the most appropriate Web page. Manber said that Google will initially provide tight oversight of the Helpouts website, deciding which types of services can be offered on Helpouts. For providers of medical consultations, Google will conduct background checks to ensure that the provider has valid credentials.
Google will take 20 percent of the fee that the providers collect from consumers for the video chats, though Google is initially waving the transaction fee for providers in the Health category.