Sunday, 19 November 2017
News Tech

A cartoon Mark Zuckerberg toured hurricane-struck Puerto Rico in virtual reality


Mark Zuckerberg put on an Oculus Rift this afternoon and used Facebook’s new virtual reality platform, Facebook Spaces, to transport himself to Puerto Rico, the Moon, and his house. He broadcast the moment live on Facebook in what turned out to be a rather strange demo of a social platform that doesn’t have a clear use yet. In particular, Zuckerberg’s choice of locations emphasized just how odd it’ll be to watch other people in any sort of serious situation in virtual reality.

Zuckerberg’s first stop, along with Facebook social VR chief Rachel Franklin, was to Puerto Rico, where he stood in front of a 360-degree video from NPR documenting the aftermath of Hurricane Maria. He used the opportunity to discuss what Facebook is doing to aid relief — matching donations, sharing data with the Red Cross — but it was all pretty strange to watch for what perhaps should have been an obvious reason: Zuckerberg was represented by a floating cartoon character.

Live from virtual reality — teleporting to Puerto Rico to discuss our partnership with NetHope and American Red Cross to restore connectivity and rebuild communities.

Posted by Mark Zuckerberg on Monday, October 9, 2017

Cartoon avatars make plenty of sense for the typical use of Facebook Spaces, which is mostly just meant as a digital hangout spot for early adopters of the Oculus Rift. But it clearly isn’t an ideal way to discuss hurricane relief efforts, particularly for a Silicon Valley billionaire doing his best to stay in touch Americans outside of the tech world. It made lines like, “It feels like we’re really here in Puerto Rico,” stand out for clearly being so far off from the actual experience, even though NPR’s reporting may well start to convey an idea of what it’s like.

After discussing Facebook’s contributions to Puerto Rico relief efforts, Zuckerberg and Franklin then transported themselves to the Moon and later to Zuckerberg’s living room, to see his dog. The stream also dropped out at one point and they had to start over again.

Facebook released Spaces in April after debuting the platform a year ago, at the Oculus Connect conference. His livestream today comes just days before the fourth annual Oculus Connect, which kicks off on Wednesday. A keynote is planned for 10AM PT that day, and today’s broadcast suggest that Facebook likely has some news in store for Spaces.



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