A Cambridge-based start up called Dotted Pair just launched a new shopping site called BrowseGoods.com that is based on a unique visual search interface. Check it out:
If I select shoes, I'm presented first with different categories upon which I can drill down to a screen full of shoe images.
Every page offers pan and zoom similar to Google Earth and Map applications. It's designed to replicate the experience of shopping in a store, where products are organized by department/aisle/shelf/item.
While most ecommerce sites are designed for direct searches (not browsing), Dotted Pair notes that twenty-five percent of offline purchases occur through undirected browsing, and shoppers who start their searches by exploring constitute a large and under-served market on the Web.
I mistakenly thought this was an Amazon.com beta application, but have since learned that Amazon is simply the first (of many?) affiliate partner for the site. It's currently limited to shoes, toys, sports, and watches, but hopefully will grow to include other categories.