Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg visited the streets of hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico on Monday (9 October) in virtual reality to demonstrate the company's new "social VR" platform, Facebook Spaces, in a rather freaky tone-deaf livestream. VR, like the system he and Franklin demonstrated, uses artificial intelligence and machine learning, so Zuckerberg asserts that such a system may be helpful to the relief aid. The live-stream saw Zuckerberg and Rachel Franklin, head of social VR at Facebook, represented as cartoon avatars in flooded areas of the United States territory, where citizens are still struggling to access clean water, electricity and other necessities in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria. It is the company's virtual reality app, which runs on Oculus Rift headset.
He also said that Facebook used satellite imagery to create so-called "population maps" that the Red Cross can use to see heavily populated areas and more quickly determine who needs help.
"We've tried to do this a couple of times in the past but this is an example of how you can use AI and machine learning to help out in savings people's lives and help out in relief efforts", Zuckerberg said.
CNBC reporter Arjun Kharpal noted several Twitter users" disgust of the spectacle in an article titled "Critics blast Facebook's Zuckerberg for "magical' virtual reality tour of Puerto Rico devastation". Moreover, it will help people determine their location and density in those places.
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Zuckerberg's use of his cartoonish avatar comes as Facebook prepares to host its Oculus Connect, its annual Oculus developer conference. Moreover, the social media giant activated features such as Safety Check and Community Help. When Hurricane Maria made landfall in Puerto Rico on September 20, it took out the island's entire electric grid, cutting both communications and access to drinking water.
Facebook has donated $1.5 million to organizations working for hurricane relief such as the World Food Program.
He also discussed the company's efforts to restore connectivity on the island, much of which was left without power after the category 3 storm lashed the island last month with 125mph winds.
"Facebook is very focused on trying to help out in the recovery effort", he repeats.