Mark Zuckerberg is apologizing for his virtual reality tour of hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico.
The Facebook CEO said Tuesday he didn’t mean to offend anyone a day after appearing as an avatar alongside the social network’s virtual reality head Rachel Franklin to show off Facebook’s VR tool Spaces and discuss his company’s partnership with NetHope and the American Red Cross. He also was promoting Facebook’s Oculus Connect 4 VR conference that’s starts on Wednesday.
However, Zuckerberg faced an onslaught criticism from some Facebook users after apparently forgetting the name of Hurricane Maria, the Category 4 storm that severely damaged the island late last month, killing more than 30 people and leaving scores of others without power. During his tour, Zuckerberg described how VR is “magical” with its ability to virtually teleport people to disaster areas.
In his apology, Zuckerberg said one of VR’s most powerful features is “empathy.”
“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,” he said. “Reading some of the comments, I realize this wasn’t clear, and I’m sorry to anyone this offended.”
One Facebook user, Maria Mangiarelli Ripp ripped Zuckerberg on Monday saying “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.”
Zuckerberg replied, “I hear that. When you’re in VR yourself, the surroundings feel quite real. 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.”