In the past the APIs like MediaDevices.getUserMedia(), local file reading API made it fairly easy to capture images and process them. This made libraries like @mebjas/html5-qrcode possible - which today allows developers to easily integrate QR code or bar code scanning capabilities to their web applications. Several developers have used the library to build Android applications using Cordova. Now the Web Platform Incubator Community Group has come with a draft for shape detector APIs which aims at providing access to accelearated shape detectors (like human faces, QR codes, bar codes, etc) for still images and live image feeds. This is particularly exciting for mobile devices which today comes with hardware chips which are highly performant at certain tasks like detecting faces, barcodes, texts etc. In this article, I have explained how to use the new BarcodeDetector library and how it can be used directly with html5-qrcode and what kind of performance improvement we see when compared to ZXingJS library.

Figure: QR Code scanning is used extensively in the post Covid19 world to enable, contact less information sharing.

This new API is part of the new capabilities project. Barcode detection has launched in Chrome 83. If the APIs evolve in future this article would be updated.

Important notes

The Shape detector APIs are still in draft and not a W3C standard not it is on the W3C Standards Track. The feature can still be turned on in the library as it’d fallback to using ZXing based detector if BarcodeDectector library is not available.

The Barcode Detection API

BarcodeDetector represents an underlying accelerated platform’s component for detection of linear or two-dimensional barcodes in images. It provides a single detect() operation on an ImageBitmapSource which result is a Promise.


The draft proposal expects core system APIs like, CIQRCodeFeature or VNDetectBarcodesRequest to act as underlying components.

By providing high-performance shape detection capabilities this interface allows developers to run image analysis tasks on the local device. This offers a privacy advantage over offloading computation to a remote system. Developers should consider the results returned by this interface as privacy sensitive as the original image from which they were derived.

How to use

The BarcodeDetector API has following interface (based on documentation):

enum BarcodeFormat {

/** Config to create instance of {@code BarcodeDetector}. */
interface BarcodeDetectorConfig {
    formats: Array<string>;

interface BarcodeDetectorResult {
     * A DOMRectReadOnly, which returns the dimensions of a rectangle
     * representing the extent of a detected barcode, aligned with the image.
    boundingBox: DOMRectReadOnly;

     * The x and y co-ordinates of the four corner points of the detected
     * barcode relative to the image, starting with the top left and working
     * clockwise. This may not be square due to perspective distortions within
     * the image.
    cornerPoints: Array<Point2D>;

    /** The detected barcode format. */
    format: BarcodeFormat;

    /** A String decoded from the barcode data. */
    rawValue: string;

class BarcodeDetector {
    constructor(config: BarcodeDetectorConfig) {}

    /** Async decoding API. */
    async decode(source: ImageBitmapSource): Promise<BarcodeDetectorResult> {}

    /** Returns list of supported formats as string. */
    static getSupportedFormats(): Array<string> {}

An example usage in Javascript would look like this:

// Get supported formats:
let supportedFormats = new BarcodeDetector.getSupportedFormats();
let barcodeDetector = new BarcodeDetector({ formats: supportedFormats });

try {
  let detector = await barcodeDetector.detect(canvas);
  barcodes.forEach(barcode => {
      // Handle barcode of format BarcodeDetectorResult
} catch (error) {

Supported formats

The library specification has a support for variety of 2D and 1D code formats like QR Code, Aztec, code_128, code_39, etc. A full list of all supported formats is listed here.

Important: While the specification defines formats API support, the actual support depends on browser and device implementations. The supported format list should always be first queried using BarcodeDetector.getSupportedFormats() API.


Compatibility as of 20th June 2020

Figure: Compatibility of the API, source -

Support in @mebjas/html5-qrcode

I learned about this API when AlfonsoML@ filed a feature request #195 in the project to add support for BarcodeDetector API.

Is your feature request related to a problem? Please describe.

Chromium has added native support to detect barcodes, so using it would be interesting as it can lead to better performance in the long term.

As an author of the project it was very exciting to see web coming with support for hardware acceleration to boost performance of a very common usecase in todays world. Current ZXing based decoder takes ~350+ms to scan a single feed, which leads to less than ideal real time performance. And, also it’s a shame, if the web applications cannot make use of exact support availabe in the hardware.

With pull request #238 I have added support for using BarcodeDetector API if supported by the browser after doing performance investigations (see results below). It’s supported both in Html5Qrcode & Html5QrcodeScanner classes (read more on how to use Html5Qrcode to scan QR & bar codes in javascript with few lines of code).

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Using this API is now supported in the library as an experimental feature. An experimental feature is one that is:

  • Supported in the library, can be turned on using certain config
  • Is not directly documented, but some context exists here
  • Is not recommeded for production usage yet
  • Can be migrated to full scale feature set if the feature is well tested and has wider compatibility.

How to use this in the library

It can be turned on using new config called useBarCodeDetectorIfSupported added to experimentalFeatures config group. It’s off (value = false) by default. If set to on (value = true) and the BarcodeDetector is supported by the browser, it’ll be used for scanning all the kind of 1D and 2D codes.

Html5Qrcode class

function onScanSuccess(decodedText, decodedResult) {
    /** Handle success condition. */

let html5qrcode = new Html5Qrcode("reader", {
    // Use this flag to turn on the feature.
    experimentalFeatures: {
        useBarCodeDetectorIfSupported: true

const scanConfig = { fps: 10, qrbox: 250 };
// If you want to prefer front camera
html5qrcode.start({ facingMode: "user" }, scanConfig, onScanSuccess);

Html5QrcodeScanner class

function onScanSuccess(decodedText, decodedResult) {
    /** Handle success condition. */

let html5QrcodeScanner = new Html5QrcodeScanner(
        fps: 10,
        qrbox: 250,
        // Use this flag to turn on the feature.
        experimentalFeatures: {
            useBarCodeDetectorIfSupported: true


I conducted the performance test on different devices to see how BarcodeDecoder API performed as compared to non accelerated ZXingJS based library. Numbers below are the average time it took for decoding any given image feed for supported QR code or bar codes in milli seconds.

Device With ZXing With BarcodeDecoder
Macbook Pro 16, Google Chrome 21 ms 10 ms
Pixel 4 Google Chrome 56 ms 23 ms
Pixel 4a Google Chrome 92 ms 47.3 ms
(low end) Android Device Google Chrome 373 ms 77.5 ms

Across devices & browsers where it was supported (example Safari on Macbook pro Big Sur doesn’t support this API yet), the BarcodeDetector API performed better than ZXing based library.

Embedded Demo

See full scale demo at


  • BarcodeDetector is easy to use WIP library, and it would be super useful to both developers and users in the future.
  • If this API starts to get wider adoption across browers and hardware, I am happy to migrate this from experimental to more well tested and documented feature set.

Happy to hear what you think about this in the comment section!