Google has put a research lab on wheels, and sent it touring across the country, where its next stop is the U.

The “Google Van” contains a wide array of Google products and will invite students to interact with technology and give feedback this week at the business school on April 12 and 13. Over the course of the tour, Google hopes to invite about 500 volunteers to come into the van and use apps, devices and smartphones in sessions lasting from 15 to 90 minutes. Students who participate will receive gift cards and t-shirts.

Tech-giant Google, behind popular services like Gmail, YouTube and the Android operating system for smartphones, already uses data gathering and user surveys to collect information for research, but company leaders decided a more traditional approach could yield new information. Most of their research takes place in Southern California, but they want to see how Americans across the country are using their platforms.

The U’s Eccles School Corporate Outreach and Business Career Services are sponsoring the event. The outreach program establishes connections with businesses in Utah and across the world to enhance education and networking processes for students. Katie Hoffman-Abby, assistant dean of Corporate Outreach, hopes the event will be valuable both for U students and for Google.

“Getting to bring something like this to our students shows the strong relationships we have with great companies,” Hoffman-Abby said. “We love to connect students with the world’s best companies and we have a strong history of doing so.”

The van will be parked in the Emma Eccles Jones Plaza, located between the Spencer Fox Eccles Business Building and the C. Roland Christensen Center.

Sarah Smith, an undeclared freshman, loves her iPhone but enjoys Google products as well and said she will stop by the van if she has time.

“It’s cool and a great opportunity that they’re stopping at the U,” Smith said. “I use Gmail and Google Docs all the time.”

Google hosted an event at the U in 2013 with the Office of Admissions where administrators communicated with prospective students via Hangouts, Google’s messaging service. The business school hopes to maintain a good relationship with the technology company for future events.

The van has already toured the east coast and after Utah, it will stop in Reno, Nev., and Lake Tahoe, Calif. If the tour yields valuable information, Google plans to do another trip later this year. Anyone interested in contributing to Google research can sign up for surveys and studies at google.com/usability.

m.bateman@dailyutahchronicle.com

@mbatman72

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