New Google Shopping Tool Predicts Inventories

Just about every major retailer has an online store -- and most can show you whether a particular item is in stock at a local store. Still, wouldn't it be great if there was some dead-simple way to scan store shelves while you're out and about? Say, from your smartphone?

Google thinks so, and they're working a new search feature that can do just that called "In Stock Nearby."

Picture this: you're lunching with a friend who mentions the amazing new light fixtures they picked up at Pottery Barn. Intrigued, you Google for "Gothic Lantern," and Google shows you the nearby retailers that have matching items in stock and the sale price.

Right now, Google only displays results for a handful of stores including Best Buy, Sears, Williams-Sonoma, Pottery Barn and West Elm. They're actively seeking more partners, though, so new retailers will appear as Google adds them to the project.

Lucky users in New York can already kick the tires and try out the In Stock Nearby function. My search for "Bose Lifestyle" turned up several stores in the region with the stylish home theater system in stock. That doesn't do me any good yet since I live about 50 hours away from New York -- but at some point in the future everyone will be able to get their virtual search on.

Curious how it all works? Check out Google's demo video (skip forward to the 19 second mark if you're feeling impatient)!

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