Michael Magyar had been an Associate with W. L. Gore & Associates (Gore) for over 15 years. As Lead Technology Scout and Material Developer at the Gore Innovation Center in California, he played an instrumental role in the company’s pursuit of technological excellence. So, in 2021, when Magyar relocated to Delaware to be closer to the company’s headquarters, the Gore team wanted to ensure that they found a way for him to work remotely without losing any capacity as a crucial member of the Innovation team. They discovered exactly what they were looking for in an Ohmni Robot.
Teamwork Makes the Dreamwork
The Gore Innovation Center is an 11,000-square-foot facility located in Santa Clara. As the name implies, it serves as a convening point for various members of the Silicon Valley ecosystem to come together and work to “accelerate the discovery of new capabilities and paths to successful commercialization of advanced material technology, medical products, and other emerging tech.”
Of particular note within the Center, one will find a large prototyping lab, where guests – such as startup companies, engineers, academia, and thought leaders – can come work alongside the Gore scientists and engineers as they create and test their various technologies.
By design, the team that Gore has put together at the Innovation Center is small, so each member plays a pivotal role in their work and presentation to visitors. With Magyar now being a remote Associate, it was vital to find a way to keep his expertise and presence available for both those who work on-site and those who come to the Center. “Mike has a unique skill set that he brings to the team,” says Linda Elkins, Head of the Gore Innovation Center and New Business Development. “Without Mike being able to join guest tours and meetings via Ohmni, we wouldn’t have the same impact.”
Having recognized the importance of Magyar’s presence, the team set out to find a more-effective remote work solution. In partnership with Richard Sun from the Gore Enterprise Architecture team, Gore procured and began utilizing an Ohmni Robot for telepresence capabilities at the Innovation Center. Initially intended for global Associates to join live events in the Center, the pandemic and Magyar’s transition to remote work led the team to adopt a new use case.
The benefits of having a telepresence robot in the lab were immediately apparent. Magyar says there are specific limitations that a standard video conference call presents, particularly the dependence for those on-site to control what you’re seeing. However, with the Ohmni’s tilting head and unrestrained mobility, he’s able to capture the full scope and nuances that take place during an experiment. “Sometimes the important things are how something’s done,” Magyar says. “You can’t pull that out from analyzing a set of data. It adds richness and context to the mutual understanding on both sides.”
Walking and Talking
Learning how to use the robot was a smooth and easy process. “Functionally, using the robot was really intuitive.” He had no issues driving around and navigating it, which was especially important for providing a top-notch experience for guests.
Each time a new visitor drops by the Center, the first part of their visit is a walking tour, where they get to take in the robust nature of the facility, as well as receive an overview of the company’s history and their accomplishments in the technology sector. Through the Ohmni Robot, Magyar is able to participate in the tour portion of these visits, where he’s able to witness those before-meeting moments. “It’d be really hard for Mike to just join [the meeting portion],” Elkins says, “because you’d lose so much of the casual conversations that take place while we’re walking around.”
Of course, coming in contact with a robot isn’t necessarily something the guests experience on a daily basis, so the initial encounter can lead to some fun banter at the beginning of the tour. “The guests are excited and surprised,” Magyar says. “It takes a minute for people to figure out how to interact with the robot. There’s a part of the meeting that’s focused on that.” Ultimately, though, the Gore team feels that having the visitors interact with the robots is a positive feature, as it emphasizes their impressive use of technology and brings all the right Gore Associates together.
Wanna Grab Lunch?
While the professional benefits — from team collaboration to enhanced guest experience — of using the robot are clear, Gore has also found the robot to be a great facilitator for interaction on a more personal level. Occasionally, the team will gather for informal lunches in the office, and thanks to Ohmni, Michael can join and participate in these camaraderie-building moments. So, while he can’t directly join them in person, Michael notes that it’s great to be able to be a part of the team in this more-casual capacity. “It helps team cohesiveness and dynamic,” Elkins says. “Especially from my side.”
The Future of Remote Work
Michael, Linda, and the entire Gore team have embraced this new style of work — and their company and projects haven’t missed a beat. As we move into a world where remote work and hybrid work become more normalized, it’s clear that Ohmni Robots can help companies continue to thrive while providing this flexibility to their employees.