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 bizarre tone-deaf livestream. Zuckerberg, along with the company's head of social virtual reality, Rachel Franklin, took Facebook users on a virtual tour of the island that was left devastated by Hurricane Maria using a 360-degree video created by NPR.
During the presentation, Zuckerberg and Franklin appeared as avatars as they "travelled" to different locations using the VR tool. The presentation was actually hosted from Facebook's headquarters in Menlo Park, California, with the two wearing VR headsets.
"One of the things that's really magical about VR is you can get the feeling you're really in a place. Rachel and I aren't even in the same building in the physical world, but it feels like we're in the same place and can make eye contact," Zuckerberg said before sharing an awkward high-fiving with Franklin in virtual reality in front of flooded homes in the US territory.
He then detailed Facebook's disaster relief efforts in Puerto Rico including donating $1.5m (£1.13m) through the World Food Programme and Net Hope, sending employees to help with their island's connectivity issues and working with the Red Cross to target relief efforts in the island to build "population maps" using artificial intelligence and satellite imagery to help identify which areas need aid.
"When you are in the middle of a disaster like this, it's really important that people have access to the internet," he said, noting it's useful in communicating with loved ones. "But it's also important so that when relief workers go down there, they can coordinate with each other and know where people need help."
Franklin said: "You can see that we can really feel like we're here."
Zuckerberg replied: "This street is really flooded."
Next, the duo decided to "teleport" back to California to promote Facebook's upcoming Oculus Connect developer conference by showing off a 360-degree video from last year's event. Later, they made their way to the moon and gazed at the Milky Way that Franklin called "absolutely lovely".
The livestream briefly dropped due to a technical glitch before they started over again on the virtual lunar surface. The duo then moved over to Zuckerberg's living room to see his dog Beast.
"This is one of the most exciting spaces for the future of social interaction," he said.