Haitham Al-Beik is the CEO and Founder of Wings, an emerging startup producing autonomous foodservice businesses designed with proprietary, purpose-built “HiveRobotics” and intuitive end-to-end experiences without human intervention.
Could you share the genesis story behind Wings?
Wings began as a fundamental research and development lab to address the complexities and frictions of the services industry. The industry has grown more labor intensive, surrounded by non-cohesive, vendor-driven components on non-standard logistics and operations, diminishing the industry’s creative potential and resulting in no innovation or increase in entrepreneurship. The barrier to entry has only become higher and more complex for any individual to enter the space regardless of their experience or intended sector. It’s no surprise that the decline in economic value is due to its non-sustainable approach to businesses, policies, ecology, and people.
Wings aims to introduce a new infrastructure (system architecture) in which next-generation autonomous and sustainable businesses reside with a people-first ecosystem. Humanity needs a new environment to aid in the transition away from a survival mindset by leveling the playing field through eliminating labor work and addressing climate change and inequality in underserved communities.
Why is it essential to reengineer the idea of what a robot is?
The consequence of developing a new infrastructure for a sustainable economy necessitates the need to rethink what robots are and every ancillary process, component, and resource—such as AI, automation, food, and people. The “end-in-mind” is what drives us to continue to innovate for an environment where people (in any situation) can flourish and bring about new ideas for more fulfilling creative work.
Decades-old, borrowed robotics from manufacturing currently being introduced to services neither addresses climate change or inequality issues. Worse, they are squeezed into dying heterogenous non-standardized business models with even more energy use and space utilization while being least accessible. More importantly, industrial robots are created for well-defined environments with predictable I/O. In a SMB, the environment is dynamic and time sensitive, with unique personalization to be fulfilled in real time.
Such efforts culminated in a model where the business is now the robot versus a traditional business augmented with robots as a one-to-one replacement of people. However, the new robotic business is not a direct one-to-one replacement but rather a new system that leaps businesses with more capabilities such as more bandwidth and features while being cleaner and safer than ever before. Similar to how Tesla vehicles elevate the transportation industry beyond simply replacing fossil fuels with lithium-ion batteries.
Essentially, Wings is reengineering the environment first in which we can develop the most effective robotics system.
Wings intends to focus on the experience of robotics instead of the process. Can you elaborate on what this means?
Our core breakthrough is the ability to manufacture and produce sustainable and autonomous end-to-end businesses for anyone to operate without business experience. The robotics are engineered to optimize and standardize the logistics, processes, and delivery of services to minimize and eliminate repetitive and laborious tasks.
Nectar, for example, our first-class autonomous sustainable retail (ASR) for the on-the-go market, utilizes as much as possible authentic energy versus synthetic ones for a more cost-effective and greener operation. In addition, Nectar’s components are modular and scalable, allowing for various configurations supporting diverse and dynamic environments.
Throughout our design process, the goal is to hide the robot as much as possible for a seamless experience. If we began developing robotics focusing on the process, the result would be robots mimicking people-driven tasks to replace one-by-one without questioning the overall logistics and end-to-end experience. Wings values the experience first as it drives genuine ways of creating robotics and processes to fulfill requests intuitively for the end user while enhancing their quality of life.
Can you explain specifically what HiveRobotics is?
On a high level, HiveRobotics is a collective of highly purpose-built robots that can work autonomously or as an extension for any other robot(s) referred to as HiveRobots. These robots can clean, store, manufacture, package, and deliver personalized services to people without human intervention. More importantly, these robots are designed to perform various time-constrained operations regardless of their physical connection or proximity to each other. Thus, HiveRobotics are built to be an excellent fit in highly dynamic environments such as retail and restaurants.
HiveRobotics are designed from the ground up to be a robotics system with the following requirements in mind:
- They are able to perform concurrent operations.
- Any externally interfacing robot must be safe to the touch.
- Collectively, they should take at least ½ the space and energy when compared to a traditional setup with the same bandwidth and I/O.
- At least 80% of the whole system must be recyclable with continued efforts to push it even higher without sacrificing cost effectiveness and quality.
- They must utilize as much authentic energy (gravity, atmospheric, solar, etc.) versus synthetic energy.
- They eliminate the use of fossil fuels and petrochemical use throughout for a greener ecology.
- The robots are aware of each other and the outstanding tasks to ensure that requests are fulfilled cost effectively and on time.
- The robots will only be active when there are outstanding requests.
- HiveRobotics systems must be modular and scalable.
- For the most part, one can service a HiveRobot without taking down the whole HiveRobotics system for continuous operations.
From a high-level architecture, HiveRobotics is only one-third of an ASR. The real-time operating system connecting ASRs and their respective resources (colonies) and the overarching intuitive end-user interface constitutes the rest of the ASR. The real-time operating system on the cloud (wingsOS) is similar in some ways to Amazon’s Web Services (AWS) that helped thin out digital businesses so creators can focus more on their creative efforts.
Could you explain some of the machine learning technologies that are applied in HiveRobots?
The use of AI is highly focused and compartmentalized based on the needs of each robot module. Almost all of the robotics’ AI are locally computed and native to their environments. Nectar, for example, has cameras and sensors to keep an eye on its environment to ensure safety for itself and the people around it. Internally, AI is applied to optimize the real-time virtual chains and workflows for a smooth experience based on predictive models. Moreover, the robots will self optimize based on local ingredients (based on season) and adjust supply based on demand with time and events.
For example, the drop off table and delivery basket are both HiveRobots that work together, adapting to each person’s accessibility, whether based on their height or they are in a wheelchair. The AI tools and software exist to offer equal first-class service regardless of the individual—consistently and dependably.
HiveRobots will be decentralized and self-organizing systems. How will they communicate together to self-organize?
Not all, but most HiveRobots communicate wirelessly using low-power communication protocols for a higher degree of freedom and reach than traditional robotics. Externally, they can communicate via satellite (StarLink) to other ASRs in the same colony for more awareness and intuitive services. Furthermore, internal virtual chains are formulated in real time to fulfill requests as they come in. These chains relate to specific workflows based on each individual’s needs. Moreover, the HiveCollective can reorganize and work together with any changes in the environment, inventory, and demand. Finally, all of these operations are transparently communicated to the end user for a more trustworthy experience.
Due to the wireless nature, each robot has its batteries (including backups) with the ability to recharge them when necessary. Due to this, it’s even more critical for the robots to use energy judiciously for cost effectiveness at peak performance.
Like a piano, which is essentially a collection of keys, each purpose built for specific notes and scales, the HiveRobots can play together harmoniously to fulfill a specific request. The engineering challenge is to create the core “keys” in their lowest form for a lifetime of creative possibilities.
You’ve described yourself as driven to liberate people. How will HiveRobots liberate people?
HiveRobots by themselves will not liberate people. Not one piece of any technology can do so. For example, lithium ion batteries do not make a vehicle autonomous, but it cements a sustainable path for one. It’s bringing multiple cutting-edge technologies together with a single cumulative focus that can open the doors to liberating people. When we work together in changing the current environment and ecosystem, we can begin to eliminate the survival mindset through emerging tech (such as robotics and AI) to increase the quality of life.
What’s your vision for the future of robotics?
Robotics of the future will mostly be hidden and only appear when necessary as an augmentation to extend humanity’s longevity and expansion through exploration no matter when or where people are. Businesses will become facilities that are essentially high-level canvasses for creative entrepreneurs to operate without the need for low-level knowledge of robotics or the need for managers or intermediaries.
The future of living is where robotics brings equality and respect to everyone with a one-to-one addressable market. At the same time, the future of services will become a symbiotic augmentation of society with a more human-centered approach and connectivity of living.
Thank you for the great interview, readers who wish to learn more should visit Wings.