Using Hangouts, Google is testing a search feature that enables users to conduct live chats with businesses directly from their search results.
Google confirmed to Computerworld that it is running a test on the technology, but declined to offer any specific details about the size of the test or which businesses are participating.
Matt Gibstein seems to be the first one who spotted the test, tweeting, "Super interesting: @Google search now offering the ability to chat with local businesses (a la @Path Talk)."
The feature has a live chat, or Hangout, feature pop up in the search results if a business has someone available to communicate with the user. The Hangout can be launched on a desktop system or mobile device.
For instance, if someone does a search for a particular restaurant or smartphone maker, the opportunity to launch a Hangout might pop up in the search results.
Being able to easily launch a Hangout with a company could help users get the information they need, according to Ezra Gottheil, an analyst with Technology Business Research.
"That could be a powerful tool," he added. "Delivering good service is difficult and expensive for businesses. Online chat is effective and less expensive than telephone support."
If Google does adopt this search feature, it could be good for users and businesses -- and it could boost Hangouts, increasing its usage and popularity.
"I don't think you'd pick your default search engine based on your eventual need to chat with a business representative," said Gottheil. "I think it's more like providing services businesses can use, and maybe encouraging the adoption of Hangouts over Skype."
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