Google may be winding down its Google Labs experiments, but the company has promised to keep experimenting in its core products, such as search, Gmail and Google Maps.
To that end, Google July 28 timed its new Hotel Finder to help people planning summer vacations in the U.S. whittle down their options.
The tool comes two months after Google added Flight Search, which isn't an experiment, to aid vacation planners looking to book flights.
Hotel Finder is a different animal; it surfaces hotels in the most visited areas of U.S. cities by selecting an initial shape for users based on what's most popular. Alternatively, users can draw a shape around the area where they want to stay.
After you draw your shape, you can add more parameters to narrow down the search by cost with "compared to typical," which shows how each hotel's price stacks up to its historical average, hotel class and user rating.
For example, see my Hotel Finder search for Orlando, Fla.:
Moreover--and this is a big time saver--when you pick a hotel, Hotel Finder shows images, Google Places reviews, and other information within the list. I selected the Renaissance Orlando at Sea World and saw:
Suppose I like the Renaissance. I can "bookmark" it in a short list for later referrals in case I want to continue hotel hunting.
If I want to book the Renaissance, I can click "book" and see options to book the hotel via Priceline.com, Expedia and perhaps other travel Websites that want to knock Google down for buying ITA Software:
I found it interesting, but not surprising that Google is surfacing some of the Websites that opposed its purchase of ITA last year.
Anyway, if you're traveling and need to book a hotel, try Hotel Finder, but remember it's only available for U.S cities for now.