Zuckerberg's virtual tour of devastated Puerto Rico strikes an awkward tone

Yolanda Curtis
October 10, 2017

By which, he means Facebook has turned on Safety Check, to let users "check-in" to Puerto Rico and indicate they're alive, and "Community Help" so that locals can post on Facebook if they need food, shelter or urgent medical attention.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg is a staunch believer of Artificial Intelligence, and the world has gotten a glimpse of it several times over the past few years.

In a move that rivaled the president tossing rolls of paper towels, free-throw style, into a crowd of hurricane survivors, Mark Zuckerberg created his own completely avoidable public-relations disaster Monday when he chose to demonstrate Facebook's new Facebook Spaces app-which lets users explore real destinations as Wii-like cartoon avatars-in hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico. The live-stream saw Zuckerberg and Rachel Franklin, head of social VR at Facebook, represented as cartoon avatars in flooded areas of the U.S. territory, where citizens are still struggling to access clean water, electricity and other necessities in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria. Moreover, it will help people determine their location and density in those places.

But in one off-key moment, after mentioning the damage left behind by the hurricane, Zuckerberg, appearing on a rubble-lined bridge, says, "One of the things that's really magical about virtual reality is you can get the feeling that you're really in a place".

The Facebook CEO said that the company is working with the American Red Cross to aid efforts in the affected areas using satellite imagery and artificial intelligence. In the virtual reality livestream, they were animated figures. Irrespective of how weird the space avatar of Zuckerberg acted or looked in the flooded area, Facebook has been generously donating to help the affected Puerto Rico areas. Franklin responded by saying it was "crazy to feel like you're in the middle of it".

"This street is really flooded", added Zuckerberg. Both also went to Zuckerberg's living room to see the Zuckerberg's dog - Beast. Through AI, they intend to build population maps, which would help organisations to understand where help is needed the most.

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