Apple and W3C Revolutionize WebXR with “Transient Pointers”

Owing to the absence of controllers for Apple’s Vision Pro, the system relies solely on hand and eye tracking for interaction. Consequently, WebXR’s performance on Vision Pro is suboptimal due to its lack of eye-tracking support. In WebXR pages, Vision Pro users are confined to hand tracking and direct touch for interaction. Moreover, Safari within visionOS defaults to WebXR being disabled, though users have the option to enable it in advanced settings.

Apple Vision Pro January

According to information from UploadVR, Apple is collaborating with the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) to introduce a new input mode for WebXR, dubbed “transient pointers.” This mode leverages the Vision Pro headset’s standard interaction system—namely, gaze and pinch-to-click—for web developers to utilize.

Transient pointers also address privacy concerns associated with eye tracking. Applications receive input related to this only when the user pinches their fingers, without involving specific eye data. This input is merely a ray emanating from the user’s viewpoint and correlating with the wrist position. Continuous eye-tracking data is inaccessible to applications, which must request permission from users for more detailed hand-tracking data.

Furthermore, this feature is not exclusive to Apple. Transient pointers have been incorporated into the latest draft of the WebXR specifications, paving the way for it to become a standard. This development means that other devices equipped with eye tracking, such as the Meta Quest Pro and HTC VIVE with eye-tracking components, will also be able to utilize this feature.