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Facebook Uses Devastated Puerto Rico To Show Off Its VR App

Facebook used a video of hurricane-stricken Puerto Rico during a live demonstration of its new virtual reality app.
Posted at 6:50 PM, Oct 10, 2017

Facebook's virtual reality initiative is breaking new ground in disaster tourism.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg demoed the company's VR app, Spaces, by touring a 360-degree video of Hurricane Maria's devastation in Puerto Rico. The chilling and captivating footage wasn't really improved by a cartoon Zuckerberg trying to awkwardly high-five his employee.

Zuckerberg also used the moment to highlight his company's $1.5 million donation to Puerto Rico relief, as well as Facebook's  initiative to restore the territory's telecommunications capability.

But the whimsical look of Spaces struck kind of the wrong chord when set against the destruction in Puerto Rico — and some viewers accused Zuckerberg of trying to use the tragedy to sell products.

Facebook's pitch for Spaces focused on its use in more lighthearted moments. Later in the video, Zuckerberg used it to virtually walk on the moon and get a mouse-sized view of his sentient mop of a dog, Beast.

But Facebook's products and features don't always wind up working as intended. The company's efforts to resurface nostalgic posts, for example, infamously started unearthing tragic memories of deaths and destruction.

Zuckerberg later addressed the controversy, saying he meant to show how VR can raise awareness of disasters. He wrote: "I realize this wasn't clear, and I'm sorry to anyone this offended."