Google introduced something called Hotel Finder today, which it describes as an experimental search tool designed to help users find "that perfect hotel."
Essentially, it's a hotel search engine, but it comes with an interesting user interface.
"To help you figure out where the action is, Hotel Finder shines a 'tourist spotlight' on the most visited areas of U.S. cities," explains software engineer Andrew McCarthy. "We select an initial shape for you based on what’s most popular or you can draw a shape around the area where you want to stay, e.g. on the ocean or along Sunset Boulevard."
"In the 'Compared to typical' section, you can see how each hotel’s price compares to its historical average, so you can tell if it’s good value for your stay," he continues. "You no longer need to open a new browser tab for each hotel result, and then go hunting around for pictures. When you select a hotel in Hotel Finder, we show you a collage of images, Google Places reviews, and key information right within the list. You can even use keyboard shortcuts (“J” and “K”) to flip through the results quickly, just like in Google Reader and News."
Users can add hotels to a shortlist to keep track of the ones they're interested in. It also points you to various booking options.
All of those worried about Google providing its own versions of different kind of search results over third-party sites will probably show some concern about this (though Google has so far made no indication that these results will actually be shown within regular Google results).
It's interesting that Google has already released something that it specifically calls an "experimental search tool," just after announcing that it is closing down Google Labs, where the company has normally launched its "experiments". The shut down was billed as a refocusing by Google. It appears that Google has hardly missed a beat when it comes to experimental launches.
Hotel Finder is currently only available in the U.S.