Facebook co-founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg has apologised for using Puerto Rico as a backdrop to showcase Facebook’s virtual reality (VR) capabilities.
Zuckerberg and another company executive appeared as avatars in a 360-degree video recorded live on Monday, which used Facebook’s VR tool Spaces and featured images of the hurricane-hit island as a backdrop.
The video begins with the two as avatars on the roof of Facebook’s Mountain view, California headquarters before they “teleport” to Puerto Rico. They then discuss the advantages of VR and Facebook’s partnership with NetHope and the American Red Cross for relief efforts.
After criticisms over the tone of the video, Zuckerberg took to Facebook to apologise.
“One of the most powerful features of VR is empathy,” Zuckerberg wrote on Wednesday. “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 realise this wasn’t clear, and I’m sorry to anyone this offended.”
Facebook is working to restore internet connectivity on the island, which was severely hit by Hurricane Maria last month, resulting in 43 casualties, according to Reuters. The company has also donated money to the relief effort.
Zuckerberg also used the Spaces video to promote Facebook’s Oculus Connect 4 VR conference, which started Wednesday. Oculus announced Oculus Go, its first standalone VR headset, as well as a series of new and updated tools to help developers build for Rift, Gear VR, and Oculus Go.
Facebook announced Spaces in April this year, along with its augmented reality (AR) open platform Camera Effects, as part of ongoing efforts to make VR and AR tech an integral part of the social media platform.
Spaces allows users to build an avatar and “spend time” with up to three other avatars, as well as draw in the air with a virtual marker to enhance the interactive experience.
The company paired Spaces with Facebook Live in July, allowing users to share their virtual reality experiences with their whole network in real time.
In May, when the company announced its Q1 2017 financial results, Zuckerberg noted that daily watch time for Facebook Live broadcasts has grown by more than four times over the past year.
“Over the next 5 years, we’re going to build ecosystems around our products that a lot of people are already using,” he added.
Last year, Zuckerberg outlined a 10-year roadmap for the company, including ventures into drones, telecom infrastructure, artificial intelligence-powered vision and reasoning, as well as AR and VR.
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