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Metaverse Needs More Than VR Christmas Bump

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IDC estimates that sales of Meta Platforms’ VR devices in 2021 will come in between 5.3 million and 6.8 million units.



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David Zalubowski/Associated Press

Among the drawbacks to Facebook’s recent rebranding as a “metaverse” company are that it is no longer enough just to make a solid videogame device.

The company now formally known as

Meta Platforms


FB -2.33%

appears to have had a decent holiday season for its Oculus VR headset. Analysts for KeyBanc Capital and Jefferies both noted in reports last week that downloads of the Oculus app jumped over Christmas;

Brent Thill

of Jefferies added that daily active users of the app on Christmas Day were up 90% from the same day the previous year. Facebook has never regularly disclosed sales data for Oculus, which it acquired in 2014 for $2 billion. But IDC estimates that unit sales of the company’s VR devices in 2021 will come in between 5.3 million and 6.8 million, once the market research firm’s fourth-quarter data is finalized.

Either one would be a nice jump from the 3.5 million Oculus units estimated to have sold last year. And it is far better than the anemic sales from before the company put out its first Quest headset in mid-2019. Oculus devices before that mostly required a cable running to a high-powered PC. Such “tethers” have severely limited the appeal of VR devices even to the gamer crowd. Analysts estimate that

Sony

sold about 5.5 million units of its tethered PlayStation VR headset in the fiscal years 2019 to 2021, according to consensus estimates from Visible Alpha. That is equivalent to about 12% of the total PlayStation console units the company sold in that time.

But while Facebook founder

Mark Zuckerberg

has long made clear that his ambitions for Oculus go well beyond gaming, the company’s name change two months ago significantly raised the stakes on that bet. Proponents of the metaverse concept insist the idea is about more than virtual reality. But VR is one of the main technologies that would set such a virtual world apart from simply browsing the internet on computers and mobile devices. “Without VR, there is no presence. And presence is the key point,” said longtime VR market analyst Stephanie Llamas of VoxPop.

Hence, a company banking its future on the metaverse will have to get a lot more devices into a lot more hands. Estimated Oculus sales over the past five years amount to less than 3% of Facebook’s daily user base in North America and Europe—the two markets that account for the vast majority of its business. It also is anyone’s guess how many people who got a headset for Christmas will be anything but casual users. And some of the recent sales could have gone to Meta’s own employees trying to score some face time with the boss. The Wall Street Journal reported that Mr. Zuckerberg has been taking more of his internal meetings in virtual reality of late.

Facebook’s metamorphosis assumes that enough people will be willing to invest a few hundred dollars to plug into a virtual world controlled by a company with serious public trust issues now generating more than $110 billion a year in advertising revenue. Getting VR headsets under the Christmas tree may prove to be the easy part.

Write to Dan Gallagher at dan.gallagher@wsj.com

Copyright ©2021 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved. 87990cbe856818d5eddac44c7b1cdeb8

Appeared in the January 3, 2022, print edition as ‘Metaverse Needs More Than a VR Bump.’

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Teladoc Tumbled 38% After Big First-Quarter Loss. Is It Just a Pandemic Play?

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After pandemic drop, Canada’s detention of immigrants rises again By Reuters

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© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Two closed Canadian border checkpoints are seen after it was announced that the border would close to “non-essential traffic” to combat the spread of novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) at the U.S.-Canada border crossing at the Thousand Isla

By Anna Mehler Paperny

TORONTO (Reuters) – Canada is locking up more people in immigration detention without charge after the numbers fell during the pandemic, government data obtained by Reuters shows.

Authorities cite an overall rise in foreign travelers amid easing restrictions but lawyers say their detained clients came to Canada years ago.

Canada held 206 people in immigration detention as of March 1, 2022 – a 28% increase compared with March 1 of the previous year. Immigration detainees have not been charged with crimes in Canada and 68% of detainees as of March 1 were locked up because Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) fears they are “unlikely to appear” at an immigration hearing, according to the data.

The rise puts Canada at odds with Amnesty International and other human rights groups that have urged Ottawa to end its use of indefinite immigration detention, noting CBSA has used factors such as a person’s mental illness as reason to detain them.

A CBSA spokesperson told Reuters that “when the number of entries (to Canada) goes up, an increase in detention is to be expected.” CBSA has said in the past it uses detention as a last resort.

A lawyer told Reuters her detained clients have been in Canada for years.

In the United Kingdom, too, immigration detention levels rose last year after dropping earlier in the pandemic, according to government statistics. Unlike Canada, the United States and Australia, European Union member states have limits on immigration detention and those limits cannot exceed six months.

The rise in detentions puts people at risk of contracting COVID-19 in harsh congregate settings, refugee lawyers say.

Julia Sande, Human Rights Law and Policy Campaigner with Amnesty, called the increase in detentions “disappointing but not surprising,” although she was reluctant to draw conclusions from limited data.

The number of immigration detainees in Canada dropped early in the pandemic, from a daily average of 301 in the fourth quarter (January through March) of 2019-20 to 126 in the first quarter (April through June) of 2020-21.

FEW NO-SHOWS AS DETENTIONS DROPPED

Detaining fewer people did not result in a significant increase in no-shows at immigration hearings – the most common reason for detention, according to Immigration and Refugee Board data.

The average number of no-shows as a percentage of admissibility hearings was about 5.5% in 2021, according to that data, compared to about 5.9% in 2019.

No-shows rose as high as 16% in October 2020, but a spokesperson for the Immigration and Refugee Board said this was due to people not receiving notifications when their hearings resumed after a pause in the pandemic.

Refugee lawyer Andrew Brouwer said the decline in detention earlier in the pandemic shows Canada does not need to lock up as many non-citizens.

“We didn’t see a bunch of no-shows. We didn’t see the sky fall … It for sure shows that the system can operate without throwing people in jail,” Brouwer said.

He added that detainees face harsh pandemic conditions in provincial jails – including extended lockdowns, sometimes with three people in a cell for 23 hours a day.

Refugee lawyer Swathi Sekhar said CBSA officials and the Immigration and Refugee Board members reviewing detentions took the risk of COVID-19 into account when deciding whether someone should be detained earlier in the pandemic but are doing so less now.

“Their position is that COVID is not a factor that should weigh in favor of release,” she said.

“We also see very, very perverse findings … [decision-makers] outright saying that individuals are going to be safer in jail.”

The Immigration and Refugee Board did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment.

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Nasdaq futures rise as market attempts comeback from April sell-off, Meta shares soar

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Stock futures rose in overnight trading as the market shook off the April sell-off and investors reacted positively to earnings from Meta Platforms.

Futures on the Dow Jones Industrial Average added 70 points or 0.2%. S&P 500 futures gained 0.7% and Nasdaq 100 futures jumped 1.2%.

The moves came as shares of Meta surged more than 18% after hours following a beat on earnings but a miss on revenue, a sign that investors may see signs of relief in the beaten-up tech sector. Shares were down 48% on the year heading into the results.

Meanwhile, shares of Qualcomm gained 5.6% in extended trading on the back of strong earnings while PayPal rose 5% despite issuing weak guidance for the second quarter.

“I think a lot of people want to believe that earnings are going to pull us out of this, but earnings are not what got us into this,” SoFi’s Liz Young told CNBC’s “Closing Bell: Overtime” on Wednesday. “… But the reality is there are so many macro headwinds still in front of us in the next 60 days that the market is just hard to impress.”

The after-hour activity followed a volatile regular trading session that saw the Nasdaq Composite stoop to its lowest level in 2022, as stocks looked to bounce back from a tech-led April sell-off. The index is down more than 12% since the start of April.

In Wednesday’s regular trading, the tech-heavy Nasdaq ended at 12,488.93, after rising to 1.7% at session highs. The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 61.75 points, or 0.2%, to 33,301.93 propped up by gains from Visa and Microsoft, while the S&P 500 added 0.2% to 4,183.96.

Investors await big tech earnings on Thursday from Apple, Amazon and Twitter, along with results from Robinhood. Jobless claims are also due out Thursday.

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