Edward Snowden could be arrested by the United States government the moment he enters the country, but he made a surprise appearance at CES 2016, thanks to the screen-on-wheels robot.
The whistle-blower and former contractor of the National Security Agency was able to attend Suitable Technologies' press conference and virtually converse and intermingle with the audience via the company's Beam telepresence robot.
The founder of Xprize Foundation and executive chairman of Singularity University, Dr. Peter H. Diamandis, was lucky to interview Snowden, who became popular for handing over secrets of the U.S. government to different publications, during the event.
Snowden said that Beam is not only beneficial as office technology, it can be used to subvert governments as well. He also expressed his delight on new technologies, such as the Beam, which allows him to participate in different events in the country, given his current situation.
"This is the power of Beam, or more broadly the power of technology," he said during the interview with Diamandis. "The FBI can't arrest a robot."
Ben Wizner, lawyer of Snowden, revealed to The Guardian that the former government employee did not receive compensation for talking at the event, which was verified by Suitable. However, Wizner underscored that his client greatly "benefited" from the new technology.
At some points, he lauded new innovations showed off at CES this year, particularly virtual reality and artificial intelligence systems (and, of course, the Beam).
"What if you could commute to work without having to sit in traffic?" asked Snowden.
He went to say that the U.S. government cancelled his passport, "but I'm sitting here in Las Vegas with you guys at CES."
Snowden added that technology is not only a tool for "oppression," but also an instrument for "liberation."
He also emphasized that he thinks that the newly launched technologies seem promising only if companies take into account security and privacy.
Beam Telepresence Device
The Beam is equipped with video camera plus a display which allows people to remotely view and even move around different places, such as offices.
Diamandis, for instance, revealed that he has six Beams at his offices in Xprize, 28 at Singularity University and one at his house.
On Coming Home
Snowden was questioned if he wishes to come home. He replied "absolutely." However, he also said that the U.S. government did not give him enough assurances as to how he was going to be treated.
He even added that what the government only guaranteed is not to "torture" him.
In the meantime, in November last year, we reported that Snowden was the keynote speaker of the Queen's University Model United Nations Invitational in Canada. He spoke to more than 600 participants through Skype.