Zuckerberg uses virtual reality to take video tour of storm-stricken Puerto Rico


  • Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg uses artificial intelligence to take a video tour of Puerto Rico to identify areas that still need relief efforts.
  • Zuckerberg partnered with the Red Cross to aid in the relief efforts in the U.S. territory which was devastated by Hurricane Maria.
  • The billionaire’s VR presentation was criticized because his idea of humanitarian aid was done in poor taste.

Mark Zuckerberg and Rachel Franklin, Facebook’s head of social VR, took Facebook users on a 360-degree virtual reality tour of the damage done by Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico.

During the video, Zuckerberg and Franklin, using their cartoonish Oculus avatar, talk about how Facebook is using artificial intelligence and satellite imagery to identify areas that most need assistance. They literally demonstrated how Facebook Spaces, a new app launched in April, works.

“We use artificial intelligence to build what we call ‘population maps’ so you can look at satellite imagery of an area and get a sense of where it is that people actually live and the density of different places and where there’s infrastructure going to in those places. That’s going to help the Red Cross figure out where people are who need help,” the Facebook boss said.

The idea of using the avatar is in connection with Facebook hosting Oculus Connect, a yearly Oculus developer conference. Zuckerberg bought Oculus VR in 2014 for a whopping $3 billion. He promotes virtual reality as an intelligent way to learn, visit a doctor and have fun.

The video presentation was hosted from Facebook’s headquarters in Silicon Valley. Zuckerberg also talked about Facebook’s endeavor to restore connectivity on the storm-ravaged nation. Most of Puerto Rico had no power after Hurricane Maria whipped the island in September, killing 34 people.

“When you are in the middle of a disaster like this, it’s really important that people have access to the internet. It’s also important so that when relief workers go down there, they can coordinate with each other and know where people need help,” he noted. He also mentioned that the social media company had donated over $1 million to relief efforts.

However, some people criticized Zuckerberg for a tone-deaf virtual reality video. He called the technology “magical” and gave Franklin a high five while the background shows flooded homes. They sounded happy and excited about the virtual reality technology, completely out of touch from the scenario being shown.

Critics say that the VR video seems more like a promotion of the VR technology rather than humanitarian aid. The video ended when Zuckerberg and Franklin decided to be transported back to California.

Source: CNet

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