Mark Zuckerberg apologised for his VR tour of the disaster-struck Puerto Rico on Tuesday. The video showed virtual avatars of Zuckerberg and Facebook’s head of social VR Rachel Dwyer in a 360-video of Puerto Rico, announcing the company’s efforts for the region’s recovery. Many found this way of announcing humanitarian aid a bit tone-deaf and insensitive.
Zuckerberg apologised to those who were offended by the video. He commented on the post, saying:
One of the most powerful features of VR is empathy. My goal here was to show how VR can raise awareness and help us see what’s happening in different parts of the world. I also wanted to share the news of our partnership with the Red Cross to help with the recovery. Reading some of the comments, I realise this wasn’t clear, and I’m sorry to anyone who was offended by this.
Zuckerberg and Dwyer used Facebook’s virtual reality app called Facebook Spaces to “teleport” their avatars to a 360-video of Puerto Rico. They explained how artificial intelligence is being used as a part of the company’s relief efforts, in partnership with NetHope and American Red Cross. Facebook is offering population maps to it’s AI-assisted maps to rescue teams on the ground.
Zuckerberg and Dwyer were using the Oculus Rift virtual reality headset for the video.
The duo could be seen in a flooded place in Puerto Rico. Zuckerberg said:
We’re on a bridge here, it’s flooded, and you can get a sense of some of the damage here that the hurricanes have done... One of the things that’s magical about virtual reality is you can get the feeling that you’re really in a place.
After announcing the initiatives Zuckerberg and Dwyer’s virtual avatars transported themselves back to California. They went to the Oculus Connect, an event for the developers of Oculus apps.
(With inputs from CNN Tech.)