How to use your Mac camera to control the cursor with head movement

Did you know that you can easily control and navigate your Mac hands-free with a cursor that follows your eyes? In this step-by-step tutorial, we’re going to teach you how to control the Mac cursor with head movement and adjust the available head-tracking options to your liking.

Using Head Pointer accessibility feature on Mac

Head Pointer on Mac

Controlling the Mac cursor with head movement requires the macOS Catalina 10.15.4 or later.

The feature is called Head Pointer and it’s primarily an assistive option for people who have issues using their mouse. The same capability has been available on iOS for some time. It’s called Head Tracking and can be found in Settings > Accessibility > Switch Control.

Like iPhone and iPad Head Tracking, Head Pointer in macOS uses the camera in your Mac notebook to track the movement of your head to control the cursor.

How to control the Mac cursor with head movement

Follow the steps below to learn how to use the Head Pointer feature in macOS to control the Mac cursor with head movement.

1) Click the Apple icon  then choose System Preferences.

2) In the System Preferences window, click Accessibility.

3) Scroll down and pick Pointer Control underneath the Motor heading in the lefthand column.

4) Now click the tab labeled Alternate Control Methods in order to reveal the new head-based method of controlling the Mac cursor.

5) From here, check the box for Enable head pointer to activate your Mac’s cursor with head movement. Try it out. And if required, follow the next step to tweak how it works.

Enable head pointer on Mac

6) To customize your experience, click Options next to Enable head pointer and adjust the settings:

  • Tracking method: Click the popup menu next to “Pointer moves“, then set the tracking option to “Relative to Head” to ensure the Mac cursor always moves relative to your head, no matter the direction you face.
  • Pointer speed: Click the text field next to “Pointer speed“, then enter the Mac pointer speed in percentages, or click the up/down arrow to increase/decrease pointer speed in single percentage point increments.
  • Camera: Click “Camera Options“, then select an imaging device to be used for Head Pointer. By default, this will be the FaceTime camera built into your MacBook, but you can also use a web camera built into your Apple display or even a standalone external video camera connected to your computer.
  • Movement threshold: Moving faster makes the Mac cursor move faster, but you can easily change the amount of head movement required before the cursor starts moving — simply input a new threshold (0-100 percent) in the field next to “Distance to edge”. This will be active only when you select When Facing Screen Edges next to Pointer moves.
  • Toggling Head Pointer: Click the Actions tab from the top. This is where you choose how to enable or disable Head Pointer. To use Head Pointer as an always-on feature, be sure to untick the box next to “use a switch or facial expression to pause or resume”. In this mode, Head Pointer works all the time and cannot be disabled with a keystroke. If you’d like to use Head Pointer with a switch to pause and resume, tick the box and you’ll be able to pause this control method with a keyboard shortcut (F10 by default). To choose a custom keyboard shortcut, click the Assign button. To delete your custom shortcut and revert to the default F10 keystroke, click the button Clear.

7) Click OK to get back to the previous screen and start using Head Pointer immediately with your current settings or hit Cancel to abandon the changes and close the window.

Head pointer settings on Mac

If you’ve ever used iOS Head Tracking, you’ll love Head Pointer on Mac. Unfortunately, it’s currently not possible to simulate a mouse click by blinking like on iOS (on macOS, you can use another control method such as Voice Control to simulate mouse clicks).

And that’s all you need to know about the Head Pointer feature on your Mac!

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