Facebook co-founder and Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg organized a Facebook Spaces live stream on the world's most popular social media platform on Monday, traveling to the disaster-struck Puerto Rico in virtual reality and exploring a portion of the U.S. territory in the Caribbean Sea in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria which left the majority of the island in disarray earlier this month. The event was organized in collaboration with the American Red Cross and NetHope after Facebook donated $1.5 million and sent some of its employees to Puerto Rico as part of nationwide relief efforts to help the island with the goal of restoring its internet connectivity and rebuilding its damaged and destroyed infrastructure.
Mr. Zuckerberg's initiative wasn't met with a universally positive response from all Facebook users and industry watchers, with some saying that the cartoonish avatars of himself and another Facebook employee proved to be distracting or even tasteless when placed in the context of a disaster-struck community. The Facebook chief recently responded to some of the critics by taking to Facebook to say that the goal of the effort was to both show the potential of VR as a tool for empathy that can allow people to better understand issues from different parts of the globe and raise awareness about Puerto Rico's current predicament. Finally, the Monday Facebook Live session was also meant to serve as an announcement of the company's partnership with Red Cross in regards to Puerto Rico relief efforts, Mr. Zuckerberg wrote in one Facebook comment, apologizing to anyone that may have been offended by the broadcast. In another statement on the matter published online, the fifth richest man on the planet suggested that the Menlo Park, California-based tech giant will look into the possibility of either modifying the existing cartoon avatars of Facebook Spaces in order to make them more realistic and less distracting or replacing them entirely. The move itself would presumably be optional or only applied to use cases involving serious topics like Puerto Rico relief efforts which some deemed incompatible with such avatars.
Facebook's VR endeavors as a whole continue to ramp up even after the firm faced a major setback in the form of a $500 million fine issued to the company and its subsidiary Oculus earlier this year following a trade secret theft lawsuit from ZeniMax. Apart from dedicated hardware like the Rift, Facebook and some of its divisions are presently also pursuing VR software experiences and their possible integrations with its other services like the omnipresent social network.