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News Worms


Mark Zuckerberg 'visits' hurricane-hit Puerto Rico in VR promo

Mark Zuckerberg 'visits' hurricane-hit Puerto Rico in VR promo

"We're on a bridge here", Zuckerberg said.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced today that his company is working with the American Red Cross to target aid efforts in Puerto Rico using artificial intelligence and satellite imagery to identify areas to deliver aid.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and head of social VR Rachel Rubin chose to show off one of the "really neat" features of Facebook Spaces, the company's social virtual-reality platform, and used a 360-degree video shot by NPR of the storm-ravaged nation of Puerto Rico as a backdrop for their VR hangout. "I mean, one of the things that's really magical about virtual reality is that you can get the feeling that you're really in a place ..."

"Let's go quickly and teleport there", the video shows Zuckerberg telling his VR chief Rachel Franklin, as they both use an Oculus Rift device. "You know, it feels like we're really here in Puerto Rico, where it's obviously a tough place to get into now, and a lot of people are really suffering with the aftermath of the hurricanes". Facebook Spaces - Facebook's new virtual reality platform - was showcased a year ago at the Oculus Connect Conference.

After discussing Facebook's contributions to Puerto Rico, Zuckerberg and Franklin transported themselves to the Moon and to Zuckerberg's living room to see his dog - all in virtual reality. The company is taking help of artificial intelligence and satellite imagery to determine areas to provide aid.

Zuckerberg explained how his firm has donated $1.5 million to the country's relief effort, activated the social network's Safety Check feature, and sent employees to the island to help with its connectivity problems so residents and the emergency services can get back online.

Alison Main of Mashable said "Zuckerberg sending his cartoon avatar to the ravaged streets of Puerto Rico" was a "tone-deaf misstep", and that "he capitalized on a natural disaster to promote his company's new tech".

Many citizens in the US-territory are still without power and water three weeks after Hurricane Maria struck the island, and US President Donald Trump has consistently downplayed the damage caused, thus inhibiting relief efforts. Further, stressing the importance of the Internet, he said that relief workers should be able to coordinate to find out the spot where people are looking for help.

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