by Graham Pierrepoint
Puerto Rico has been hit hard by tragic destruction, flooding and further disasters in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, the third large-grade tropical storm to devastate North America this summer – and several organisations and world figures are doing what they can to offer aid and financial support to families who have found their lives and homes in tatters as a result of one of the worst natural disasters in recent history. Among them is Mark Zuckerberg – who has reportedly advised that Facebook has donated $1.5 million – though his recent decision to visit Puerto Rico was undertaken in quite a bizarre fashion – and, unsurprisingly, in a way that may have left a bad taste in some people’s mouths.
Zuckerberg has recently live-streamed Oculus Rift technology – which Facebook purchased some years ago to huge intrigue – to present a new Virtual Reality platform called Facebook Spaces. The program will allow you, according to the live stream, to project yourself to various areas of the globe to hang out with other people’s avatars – and the Facebook titan himself sent a toony avatar Zuckerberg to far-flung places (such as the moon, for example) – as well as Puerto Rico.
Viewers caught the chance to see a bizarre cartoon Zuckerberg visit Puerto Rico in a section of the demonstration which led into his discussions about Facebook’s aid efforts in the region. Cartoon Zuckerberg attended a 360 degree video showing exactly what is happening in Puerto Rico following Maria’s destruction – while, at the same time, discussing what his company was doing to help relieve people struggling to rebuild their lives in the aftermath of the disaster. This move may not have been a great choice, some outlets argue – and his reported line of “It feels like we’re really here in Puerto Rico” may not have sat well, either.
Zuckerberg has advised that the Facebook Spaces VR extension is still in development, and that the full experience may not have translated well over traditional video. It will be interesting, however, to see where the big blue network takes the Oculus Rift technology – will we be able to visit people without having to leave our homes in future? Will avatars upgrade over time to look realistic? More interestingly – will Facebook continue to evolve and hold the audience it’s captivated over the past decade and a bit – or will Snapchat continue to defiantly eat away at its majesty?