The social network CEO appeared in the “exploitative” nine-minute segment on Monday, that saw him teleport from the safety of his headquarters in California to stand in front of flooded homes, crumbling bridges and images of people attempting to rebuild their lives.
And in case you’re wondering, it really is just as awkward as it sounds.
Zuckerberg decided to broadcast the livestream of himself and Rachel Franklin, Head of Social VR, testing out the Oculus Rift headset by remotely casting cartoon avatars of themselves to a series of real locations around the world (and in space).
But instead of just choosing, say, the inside of his own private office, he decided to go over to the relief efforts on the Caribbean island that is still pleading the US government to provide drinking water, three weeks after Hurricane Maria first hit.
Panning to damaged roads, where people are trying to drive, Zuckerberg says: “You can get a sense of some of the damage here that the hurricanes have done, and one of the things that’s really magical about virtual reality is you can get the feeling that you’re really in a place.”
They then segway neatly to a neighbourhood submerged in about two feet of water, with their avatars floating awkwardly above the mess.
“I mean, this street is just completely flooded…I mean can you guys, can you see this behind me, I mean this is what it looks like down here,” at which point Zuckerberg adjusts the camera so that viewers can get a wider angle shot of the flooding.
Then, in a phenomenally ill-judged attempt to demonstrate the connectivity that virtual reality can bring for people who are separated by geography (they aren’t in the same office) Franklin takes a moment to go for a high five.
Which Zuckerberg returns (cringe, cringe, cringe).
The pair then round up with the only conclusion that we could come to expect from this scene: “You wanna go teleport somewhere else? Maybe back to California?”
But even before they cut to Puerto Rico, there is already a lot of awkward pausing and interaction, mainly just highlighting how strange it is to watch people in virtual reality in any sort of remotely-serious situation.
Not to mention, Zuckerberg’s avatar looks uncannily like Justin Timberlake.
Of course Zuckerberg did try to take the opportunity to shine a light on their partnerships with NetHope and American Red Cross, who are providing relief in the communities affected, but it was a bit late for lots of viewers.
In the real-time public Facebook comments, people were not happy.
Luke Lane said: “Ooooooh poor choice of location to show off that tech. Unless you’re gonna get donations to send out there, stop talking about how morally good you are and get on with the pitch.”
Alexander J. Perez said: “Ok? You are joking about The People of Puerto Rico??? What’s wrong with you people? This is not a Game dude it’s serious.”
On Twitter, Chelsea Clinton and many others criticised the “exploitative” nature of the broadcast, and said it demonstrated how out of touch Silicon Valley is.
People also commented on the totally inappropriate facial expressions on offer.
Better luck next time…
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