SAN FRANCISCO — Mark Zuckerberg apologized after a live-streamed virtual trip to hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico to promote Facebook's Spaces app drew sharp criticism on social media.
"My goal here was to show how (virtual reality) 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. Reading some of the comments, I realize this wasn't clear, and I'm sorry to anyone this offended," the Facebook CEO wrote.
On Monday Zuckerberg and Rachel Franklin, who runs Facebook's social virtual reality efforts, embarked on what they called a "magical" tour of Puerto Rico where many residents are still without power, food, supplies and medical care.
The background was a 360-degree video from NPR which showed flooded streets and people clearing debris. Facebook's Spaces app lets you create a 3-D avatar and communicate with other avatars in a virtual space using an Oculus Rift VR headset.
"One of the things that’s really magical about virtual reality is that you can get the feeling that you are really in a place,” Zuckerberg's cartoon avatar says.
Zuckerberg also announced Facebook would help build "population maps" to help the Red Cross pinpoint where help is needed.
The response to the virtual reality stunt was a bit of a, well, disaster. On social media Zuckerberg was called a "heartless billionaire" and accused of "exploiting disaster."
On Wednesday, Facebook hosts its annual Oculus conference for virtual reality software developers.