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Google introduces a virtual 'Genius Bar' to answer device questions

Google introduces a virtual 'Genius Bar' to answer device questions

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Google is giving its online store the human touch. The Google Play store for devices like Nexus phones and tablets now has a new option to begin a video chat with a salesperson who can answer any questions you might have about Chromebooks, Android Wear, or other devices that Google sells directly through the site. For now, the assistants are not available for tech support. The service — which is built off of Google's video lesson platform Helpouts — is called Google Device Experts.

Employees involved with the service tell TechCrunch that it's been in testing since November, though it hasn't been spotted until now. A Google spokesperson said in a statement that "We’re in a limited trial of an experimental support feature and gathering feedback." They added, "we aren’t ready to share full plans yet."

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Service may be coming to retail soon

However, according to TechCrunch's sources, Google may have grand plans for the service. One person familiar with the project said that the company is "also planning to go into retail stores with a virtual help desk to enhance the shopping experience." It's not clear what such a service would look like, though it's possible that screens with direct access to the video chat assistants could be set up in the Google-branded sections of stores like Best Buy, where Chromebooks and Nexus tablets are often displayed. Ultimately, this could be Google's answer to Apple's hugely popular "Genius Bar," which offers free support at all of the company's retail locations.

As of now, the only way to access Google Device Experts is through the devices section of Google Play. From there, click the help icon in the top right corner, and then "Video call" under "Contact Us." Assistants are said to be available from 9AM to 9PM ET.