WebXR Device API - Input

This document explains the portion of the WebXR APIs for managing input across the range of XR hardware. For context, it may be helpful to have first read about WebXR Session Establishment and Spatial Tracking.



In addition to the diversity of tracking and display technology, XR hardware may support a wide variety of input mechanisms including screen taps, motion controllers (with multiple buttons, joysticks, triggers, touchpads, force sensors, etc), voice commands, spatially-tracked articulated hands, single button clickers, and more. Despite this variation, all XR input mechanisms have a common purpose: enabling users to aim in 3D space and perform an action on the target of that aim. This concept is known as “target and select” and is the foundation for how input is exposed in WebXR.

Targeting categories

All WebXR input sources can be divided into one of three categories based on the method by which users must target: ‘gaze’, ‘tracked-pointer’, and ‘screen’.


Gaze-based input sources do not have their own tracking mechanism and instead use the viewer’s head position for targeting. Example include 0DOF clickers, headset buttons, regular gamepads, and certain voice commands. Within this category, some input sources are persistent (e.g. those backed by hardware) while others will come-and-go when invoked by the user (e.g. voice commands).

Tracked Pointer

Tracked pointers are input sources able to be tracked separately from the viewer. Examples include the Oculus Touch motion controllers and the Magic Leap hand tracking. For motion controllers, the target ray will often have an origin at the tip of motion controller and be angled slightly downward for comfort. The exact orientation of the ray relative to a given device follows platform-specific guidelines if there are any. In the absence of platform-specific guidance or a physical device, the target ray points in the same direction as the user’s index finger if it was outstretched. Within this category, input sources are considered connected even if they are temporarily unable to be tracked in space.


Screen based input is driven by mouse and touch interactions on a 2D screen that are then translated into a 3D targeting ray. The targeting ray originates at the interacted point on the screen as mapped into the input XRSpace and extends out into the scene along a line from the screen’s viewer pose position through that point. The specific mapped depth of the origin point depends on the user agent. It SHOULD correspond to the actual 3D position of the point on the screen where available, but MAY also be projected onto the closest clipping plane (defined by the smaller of the depthNear and depthFar attributes of the XRSession) if the actual screen placement is not known.

To accomplish this, pointer events over the relevant screen regions are monitored and temporary input sources are generated in response to allow unified input handling. For inline sessions the monitored region is the canvas associated with the baseLayer. For immersive sessions (e.g. hand-held AR), the entire screen is monitored.

Selection styles

In addition to a targeting ray, all input sources provide a mechanism for the user to perform a “select” action. This user intent is communicated to developers through events which are discussed in detail in the Input events section. The physical action which triggers this selection will differ based on the input type. For example (though this is hardly conclusive):

Basic usage

Enumerating input sources

The inputSources attribute on an XRSession returns a list of all XRInputSources that the user agent considers active. The properties of an XRInputSource object are immutable. If a device can be manipulated in such a way that these properties can change, the XRInputSource will be removed from the array and a new entry created.

let inputSources = xrSession.inputSources;

When input sources are added to or removed from the list of available input sources the inputsourceschange event must be fired on the XRSession object to indicate that any cached copies of the list should be refreshed. In addition, the inputsourceschange event will also fire once after the session creation callback completes. This event is of the type XRInputSourceChangeEvent and will contain three attributes: session is associated session being changed, added is the new input sources, and removed is the input sources that will no longer be reported.

function onSessionStarted(session) {
  // Session initialization logic ...

  xrSession.addEventListener('inputsourceschange', onInputSourcesChange);

  // More session initialization logic ...

let xrInputSources = null;
function onInputSourcesChange(event) {
  xrInputSources = event.session.inputSources;

Targeting ray pose

The targetRaySpace attribute of an XRInputSource is an XRSpace representing the inputs source’s targeting ray origin and direction in space. (For more information on XRSpaces, see the Spatial Relationships section in the Spatial Tracking explainer). All XRInputSource objects, regardless of the targetRayMode, will have a valid targetRaySpace. As mentioned in the Targeting Categories section, the location of this targetRaySpace will vary based on the targetRayMode. For example, all XRInputSources with a targetRayMode of ‘gaze’ will have the same XRSpace object as the targetRaySpace. This common targetRaySpace will represent the same location as the XRSession.viewerSpace, but will be a different object in order to keep the API flexible enough to add eye tracking in the future. Alternatively, the targetRaySpace of an input source with the targetRayMode of tracked-pointer will be based on the spatial location of the physical input device.

The location of the targetRaySpace can be determined for a given frame by passing it to XRFrame.getPose() as the space parameter. Developers will likely supply their active XRReferenceSpace as the relativeTo parameter so they can use a consistent coordinate system, though this is not required. The result from getPose() should always be verified as the function may return null in cases where tracking has been lost or the XRInputSource instance is no longer connected or available.

let inputSourcePose = xrFrame.getPose(inputSource.targetRaySpace, xrReferenceSpace);
if (inputSourcePose) {
  // do something with the result

The XRPose object has an emulatedPosition property that is used to indicate when the position components of a pose are not based on sensor data. This is the case, for example, for the Daydream and GearVR 3DoF controllers, which use an arm model to approximate controller position based on rotation. It may also be true on devices while under tracking loss. In these situations, the emulatedPosition attribute of the XRPose returned by XRFrame.getPose() will be set to true to indicate that the translation components of retrieved pose matrices may not be accurate.

Input events

When the selection mechanism for an XRInputSource is invoked, three XRInputSourceEvent events are fired on the XRSession.

The selectstart and selectend events are useful for handling dragging, painting, or other continuous motions. As the select event is triggered by user activation, it can be used to begin playing media or other trusted interactions.

function onSessionStarted(session) {
  // Session initialization logic ...

  session.addEventListener("select", onSelect);
  session.addEventListener("selectstart", onSelectStart);
  session.addEventListener("selectend", onSelectEnd);

  // More session initialization logic ...

All three events are XRInputSourceEvent events. When fired the event’s inputSource attribute will contain the XRInputSource that produced the event. The event’s frame attribute will contain a valid XRFrame that can be used to call getPose() at the time the selection event occurred. Calling the frame’s getViewerPose() method will throw an InvalidState error. (The viewer’s pose can still be queried by passing an XRReferenceSpace of type viewer to XRFrame.getPose().)

Transient input sources

Some input sources are only be added to the list of input sources while an action is occurring. For example, those with an targetRayMode of ‘screen’ or those with targetRayMode of ‘gaze’ which are triggered by a voice command. In these cases, XRInputSource is only present in the inputSources array during the lifetime of the action. In this circumstance, the order of events is as follows:

  1. Optionally pointerdown
  2. inputsourceschange for add
  3. selectstart
  4. Optionally pointermove
  5. select
  6. Optionally click
  7. selectend
  8. inputsourceschange for remove
  9. Optionally pointerup

Input sources that are instantaneous, without a clear start and end point such as a verbal command like “Select”, will still fire all events in the sequence.

Choosing a preferred input source

Many platforms support multiple input sources concurrently. Examples of this are left/right handed motion controllers or hand tracking combined with a 0DOF clicker. Since xrSession.inputSources returns all connected input sources, an application may choose to take into consideration the most recently used input sources when rendering UI hints, such as a cursor, ray or highlight.

To simplify the sample code throughout this explainer, an example is provided which shows one potential way to set a preferredInputSource.

// Keep track of the preferred input source
var preferredInputSource = null;

function onSelectStart(event) {
    // Update the preferred input source to be the last one the user interacted with
    preferredInputSource = event.inputSource;

function onInputSourceChanged(event) {
  xrInputSources = event.session.inputSources;

  // Choose an appropriate default from available inputSources, such as 
  // prioritizing based on the value of targetRayMode: 'screen' over 
  // 'tracked-pointer' over 'gaze'.
  preferredInputSource = computePreferredInputSource();

Rendering Input

When rendering an XR scene, it is often useful for users to have visual representations of their input sources and visual targeting hints. The mechanisms for displaying this information are often categorized as follows:

The appropriateness of using these visualizations depends on various factors, including the value of the input source’s targetRayMode.

  Highlight Cursor Pointing Ray Renderable Model
‘screen’ X X X
‘gaze’ X X
‘tracked-pointer’ √ (if possible)

There are several points worth calling out about the table above. First, ‘screen’ style inputs should only use highlights as the user’s fingers will obscure other visualizations. Second, a pointing ray should not be drawn for ‘gaze’ style input sources because the ray’s origin would be located between the user’s eyes and may obscure the user’s vision or be difficult to visually converge on. Third, developers should only attempt to draw renderable models and pointing rays for ‘tracked-pointer’ input sources, a topic explained in more detail in the Renderable models section.

Visualizing targeting hints

In order to draw targeting hints such as cursors, highlights, and pointing rays, a hit test must be performed against the 3D geometry to find what the user is aiming at. There are two types of hit testing: virtual and real-world. The sample code in this explainer will focus on virtual hit testing. For more information on real-world hit testing and how to combine it with virtual hit testing, see the Hit Testing explainer.

WebXR does not have any knowledge of the developer’s 3D scene graph, but does have information about the real-world location of XRInputSource objects. Using the XRFrame.getPose() function, as described in the Targeting ray pose section, developers can determine position and orientation of the XRInputSource’s targeting ray and pass it into their 3D engine’s virtual hit test function.

function updateScene(timestamp, xrFrame) {
  // Scene update logic ...

  // Use the previously determined preferredInputSource to hit test with
  let inputSourcePose = xrFrame.getPose(preferredInputSource.targetRaySpace, xrReferenceSpace);
  if (inputSourcePose) {
    // Invoke the example 3D engine to compute a virtual hit test
    var virtualHitTestResult = scene.virtualHitTest(inputSourcePose.transform);

  updatePointingRay(inputSourcePose, virtualHitTestResult);
  // Other scene update logic ...


In the sample code below, a cursor is positioned based on the virtual hit-test result from the 3D engine’s preferredInputSource. If an intersection doesn’t exist or the targetRayMode of the preferredInputSource is ‘screen’, the cursor is hidden.

function updateCursor(virtualHitTestResult) {
  // Toggle the cursor in the imaginary 3D engine
  if (!virtualHitTestResult || preferredInputSource.targetRayMode == "screen") {
    scene.cursor.visible = false;
  } else {
    scene.cursor.visible = true;


In the sample code below, if the virtual hit test intersected with a virtual object the object is decorated with a highlight. Otherwise, the highlight is cleared.

function updateTargetHighlight(virtualHitTestResult) {
  // The virtualTarget object isn't part of the WebXR API. It is
  // something set by the imaginary 3D engine in this example
  if (virtualHitTestResult && virtualHitTestResult.objectHit) {
  } else {

Pointing rays

In the sample below, a pointing ray is drawn for XRInputSource objects with the targetRayMode of ‘tracked-pointer’. The ray starts at the origin of the targetRaySpace and terminates at the point of intersection with the 3D geometry, if one is available. If no intersection is found, a default ray length is used.

function updatePointingRay(inputSourcePose, virtualHitTestResult) {
  // Toggle the pointing ray in the imaginary 3D engine
  if (!inputSourcePose || preferredInputSource.targetRayMode != "tracked-pointer") {
    scene.pointingRay.visible = false;
  } else {
    scene.pointingRay.visible = true;
    if (virtualHitTestResult) {
      scene.pointingRay.length = MatrixMathLibrary.distance(inputSourcePose.transform, virtualHitTestResult.transform);
    } else {
      scene.pointingRay.length = scene.pointingRay.defaultLength;

Renderable models

For tracked-pointer input sources, it is often appropriate for the application to render a contextually appropriate model (such as a racket in a tennis game). Other times it’s desirable for the application to render a device that matches what the user is holding, especially when relaying instructions about it’s use. Finally, there are times when it’s best to not render anything at all, such as when the XR device uses a transparent display and the user can see their hands and/or any tracked devices without app assistance. See Handling non-opaque displays in the main explainer for more details.

Choosing renderable models

The WebXR Device API currently does not offer any way to retrieve renderable resources that represent the input devices from the API itself, and as such the XRInputSource’s profiles must be used to identify and load an appropriate resources. (For example, from the application’s server, a CDN, or a local cache.) The profiles provides a list of strings that identify the device, given in descending order of preference.

For example, the Samsung HMD Odyssey’s controller is a variant of the standard Windows Mixed Reality controller. As a result, the profiles for that controller could be:

// Exact strings are examples only.
["samsung-odyssey", "microsoft-mixed-reality", "generic-trigger-squeeze-touchpad-thumbstick"]

Applications should iterate through the list until a string is located that corresponds to a known model, which should then be used when rendering the input device. The example below presumes that the getInputSourceRenderableModel call would do the required lookup and caching.

function loadRenderableInputModels(xrInputSource) {
  for (let profile of xrInputSource.profiles) {
    // Retrieve a mesh to render based on the gamepad object's profile and handedness
    let renderableModel = getInputSourceRenderableModel(profile, xrInputSource.handedness);
    if (renderableModel) {
      // Add the model to the imaginary 3D engine's scene.
      scene.inputObjects.add(renderableModel, xrInputSource);

  // If the profiles list was empty or a corresponding model could not be found
  // for any entry in it the application could respond by not rendering the
  // device at all or rendering a generic device that is not intended to be a
  // visual match. This sample chooses the latter approach.
  scene.inputObjects.add(getDefaultInputSourceRenderableModel(), xrInputSource);

Placing renderable models

The targetRaySpace should not be used to place the renderable model of a ‘tracked-pointer’. Instead, ‘tracked-pointer’ input sources will have a non-null gripSpace which should be used instead. The gripSpace is an XRSpace where, if the user was holding a straight rod in their hand, it would be aligned with the negative Z axis (forward) and the origin rests at their palm. In many cases this will be different from the targetRaySpace such as on a motion controller with a tip angled slightly downward for comfort.

Using the gripSpace developers can properly render a virtual object held in the user’s hand. This could be something like a virtual sword positioned so that the blade points directly down the negative Z axis and the center of the handle is at the origin.

Similar to the description in the Targeting ray pose section, developers should pass their gripSpace to XRFrame.getPose() each frame for updated location information. Developers should take care to check the result from getPose() as it may return null in cases where tracking has been lost or the XRSpace’s XRInputSource instance is no longer connected or available.

Finally, rendered models of input sources should generally only be shown if the XRSession’s environmentBlendMode is 'opaque', as any other mode implies that the user can see any physical device they may be holding. Rendering cursors, highlights, and pointing rays may still be desirable, depending on the application’s needs.

function updateRenderableInputModels(xrFrame) {
  // Don't display input models if the blend mode is not 'opaque'
  if (xrFrame.session.environmentBlendMode != 'opaque')

  foreach(inputObject of scene.inputObjects) {
    let xrInputSource = inputObject.xrInputSource;
    if(xrInputSource.gripSpace) {
      let pose = xrFrame.getPose(xrInputSource.gripSpace, xrReferenceFrame);
      if (pose) {
        inputObject.visible = true;
      } else {
        inputObject.visible = false;

Generic Profiles

The strings returned in the profiles array of an XRInputSource describe the device being used with varying levels of detail, ranging from exactly identifying the device to only giving a broad description of it’s shape and capabilities. It’s highly recommended that, when applicable, the last profile in the array be from a list of well-known “generic” profiles, given below.

Note that the generic profiles exclude the button reserved by the user agent for its own purposes. For example, the Google Daydream controller has an App button and a touchpad, but most user agents will use the App button to show their own menu. Therefore, the App button does not count as a usable button when determining the Google Daydream controller’s generic profile, which is simply "generic-touchpad".

Controllers with the following profiles must not use the "xr-standard" Gamepad mapping, as they do not have a trigger:

Controllers with the following profiles (counting only app-usable controls) must use the "xr-standard" Gamepad mapping, as they do have a trigger:

More generic profiles may be added to this list over time as new common form factors are observed.

Appendix A: Proposed partial IDL

This is a partial IDL and is considered additive to the core IDL found in the main explainer.

// Session

partial interface XRSession {
  readonly attribute XRInputSourceArray inputSources;
  attribute EventHandler onselect;
  attribute EventHandler onselectstart;
  attribute EventHandler onselectend;
  attribute EventHandler oninputsourceschange;

// Input

enum XRHandedness {

enum XRTargetRayMode {

[SecureContext, Exposed=Window]
interface XRInputSource {
  readonly attribute XRHandedness handedness;
  readonly attribute XRTargetRayMode targetRayMode;
  readonly attribute XRSpace targetRaySpace;
  readonly attribute XRSpace? gripSpace;
  readonly attribute FrozenArray<DOMString> profiles;

[SecureContext, Exposed=Window]
interface XRInputSourceArray {
  readonly attribute unsigned long length;
  getter XRInputSource(unsigned long index);

// Events

[SecureContext, Exposed=Window, Constructor(DOMString type, XRSessionEventInit eventInitDict)]
interface XRSessionEvent : Event {
  readonly attribute XRSession session;

dictionary XRSessionEventInit : EventInit {
  required XRSession session;

[SecureContext, Exposed=Window, Constructor(DOMString type, XRInputSourceChangeEventInit eventInitDict)]
interface XRInputSourceChangeEvent : Event {
  readonly attribute XRSession session;
  readonly attribute FrozenArray<XRInputSource> removed;
  readonly attribute FrozenArray<XRInputSource> added;

dictionary XRInputSourceChangeEventInit : EventInit {
  required XRSession session;
  required FrozenArray<XRInputSource> removed;
  required FrozenArray<XRInputSource> added;

[SecureContext, Exposed=Window,
 Constructor(DOMString type, XRInputSourceEventInit eventInitDict)]
interface XRInputSourceEvent : Event {
  readonly attribute XRFrame frame;
  readonly attribute XRInputSource inputSource;

dictionary XRInputSourceEventInit : EventInit {
  required XRFrame frame;
  required XRInputSource inputSource;