Barcode detection in a Web Worker using Comlink

I’m a big fan of QRCodes, they are very simple and neat way to exchange data between the real world and the digital world. For a few years now I’ve had a little side project called QRSnapper — well it’s had a few names, but this is the one I’ve settled on — that uses the getUserMedia API to take live data from the user’s camera so that it can scan for QR Codes in near real time.

The goal of the app was to maintain 60fps in the UI and near instant detection of the QR Code, this meant that I had to put the detection code in to a Web Worker (pretty standard stuff). In this post I just wanted to quickly share how I used comlink to massively simplify the logic in the Worker.

qrclient.js

import * as Comlink from './comlink.js';

const proxy = Comlink.proxy(new Worker('/scripts/qrworker.js')); 

export const decode = async function (context) {
  try {
    let canvas = context.canvas;
    let width = canvas.width;
    let height = canvas.height;
    let imageData = context.getImageData(0, 0, width, height);
    return await proxy.detectUrl(width, height, imageData);
  } catch (err) {
    console.log(err);
  }
};

qrworker.js (web worker)

import * as Comlink from './comlink.js';
import {qrcode} from './qrcode.js';

// Use the native API's
let nativeDetector = async (width, height, imageData) => {
  try {
    let barcodeDetector = new BarcodeDetector();
    let barcodes = await barcodeDetector.detect(imageData);
    // return the first barcode.
    if (barcodes.length > 0) {
      return barcodes[0].rawValue;
    }
  } catch(err) {
    detector = workerDetector;
  }
};

// Use the polyfil
let workerDetector = async (width, height, imageData) => {
  try {
    return qrcode.decode(width, height, imageData);
  } catch (err) {
    // the library throws an excpetion when there are no qrcodes.
    return;
  }
}

let detectUrl = async (width, height, imageData) => {
  return detector(width, height, imageData);
};

let detector = ('BarcodeDetector' in self) ? nativeDetector : workerDetector;
// Expose the API to the client pages.
Comlink.expose({detectUrl}, self);

I really love Comlink, I think it is a game changer of a library especially when it comes to creating idiomatic JavaScript that works across threads. Finally a neat thing here, is that the native Barcode detection API can be run inside a worker so all the logic is encapsulated away from the UI.

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Picture of me smiling.

Paul Kinlan

I lead the Chrome Developer Relations team at Google.

We want people to have the best experience possible on the web without having to install a native app or produce content in a walled garden.

Our team tries to make it easier for developers to build on the web by supporting every Chrome release, creating great content to support developers on web.dev, contributing to MDN, helping to improve browser compatibility, and some of the best developer tools like Lighthouse, Workbox, Squoosh to name just a few.

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