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Zuckerberg taps VR to detail relief efforts in Puerto Rico

Facebook is using artificial intelligence and satellite imagery to identify areas of need on the island.

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Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg takes a 360-degree video tour of the hurricane devastation in Puerto Rico.

Facebook

Mark Zuckerberg took to virtual reality on Monday for a new partnership with the Red Cross to assist relief efforts in hurricane-whipped Puerto Rico.

The Facebook CEO -- represented by his Oculus avatar -- took Facebook users on a 360-degree video tour of the devastation left on the island by Hurricane Maria. During the presentation, which was hosted from Facebook's headquarters in Silicon Valley, Zuckerberg detailed how the company is using artificial intelligence and satellite imagery to identify areas of need on the island.

"We use artificial intelligence to build what we call 'population maps' so you can look at satellite imagery of an area and get a sense of where it is that people actually live and the density of different places and where there's infrastructure going to in those places," Zuckerberg said. "That's going to help the Red Cross figure out where people are who need help."

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Zuckerberg's use of his cartoonish avatar comes as Facebook prepares to host Oculus Connect, its annual Oculus developer conference. Zuckerberg, who spent as much as $3 billion to buy industry leader Oculus VR back in 2014, has championed VR as a way to remake the way we learn, go to the doctor and be entertained.

He also discussed the company's efforts to restore connectivity on the island, much of which was left without power after the category 3 storm lashed the island last month with 125 miles per hour winds. The storm claimed 34 lives on the island.

Zuckerberg said his company had already sent several employees to the island to help ensure networks were operating properly.

"When you are in the middle of a disaster like this, it's really important that people have access to the internet," he said, noting it's useful in communicating with loved ones. "But it's also important so that when relief workers go down there, they can coordinate with each other and know where people need help."

Zuckerberg also noted that Facebook had already donated more than $1 million to relief efforts. 

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