Facebook CEO and co-founder Mark Zuckerberg has apologized for what many have called an insensitive and tone-deaf virtual reality demonstration. Zuckerberg and Facebook's head of social VR Rachel Franklin showed off their company’s new virtual reality platform this week by heading to, of all places, to hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico.
In the video, which runs a little over nine minutes and was posted to Facebook, Zuckerberg and Franklin send their VR avatars to Puerto Rico and even awkwardly high-five each other against a background of flooded streets and homes. During the presentation, Zuckerberg also took the opportunity to talk about all of the relief efforts Facebook has been involved in to help the hurricane-stricken island.
You can watch the video below.
Under the comments section, Zuckerberg responded to the criticism he has received. "One of the most powerful features of VR is empathy," he wrote. "My goal here was to show how VR can raise awareness and help us see what's happening in different parts of the world. I also wanted to share the news of our partnership with the Red Cross to help with the recovery. Reading some of the comments, I realize this wasn't clear, and I'm sorry to anyone this offended."
Zuckerberg also responded to someone who wrote: "It seems it would be way more effective if we could see your real faces. It is so distracting to have virtual characters reporting on a real disaster,"
"I hear that. When you're in VR yourself, the surroundings feel quite real," Zuckerberg said. "But that sense of empathy doesn't extend well to people watching you as a virtual character on a 2D screen. That's something we'll need to work on over time."
The situation in Puerto Rico remains dire with reports of food shortages occurring on the island.