This is an updated walkthrough on implementing a QR code or barcode scanner for iOS applications using Swift! When I was looking to use one, my goal was to create a popup scanner, and so that’s what we’ll make today.

First, make sure that there is a UIView contained in the ViewController that will handle the scanning. Set some appropriate constraints and place a label somewhere within the scanner view. We’ll use this label to show what’s being decoded.

At the top of your view controller’s source code, import AVFoundation and add the AVCaptureMetadataOutputObjectsDelegate protocol to the controller. In viewDidLoad add the following code:

let captureDevice = AVCaptureDevice.defaultDeviceWithMediaType(AVMediaTypeVideo)

var input: AnyObject?
do {
    input = try AVCaptureDeviceInput(device: captureDevice)
} catch {
    let nsError = error as NSError

Note that to test out the scanning, the application has to be installed on a physical device otherwise a “Cannot Read” error will pop up. But let’s break down what we just did: we created a capture device that will automatically take in video data using the back camera by default, and then we set the input for that device to a local variable. Now that we have the input images, we want to detect and decode barcodes. Define a class variable as captureSession, that way we can start and stop from anywhere in the code. Then, continue to add the following lines into viewDidLoad.

captureSession = AVCaptureSession()
captureSession?.addInput(input as! AVCaptureInput)

let captureMetadataOutput = AVCaptureMetadataOutput()

captureMetadataOutput.setMetadataObjectsDelegate(self, queue: dispatch_get_main_queue())
captureMetadataOutput.metadataObjectTypes = [AVMetadataObjectTypeDataMatrixCode]

In the above code we created a capture session that will perform all the heavy-lifting of decoding, but we first need to specify the input and output. The input will be metadata from the capture device that we defined earlier, but we have to further define the output. It’s important at this step to know what type of code you’re using (whether it is QR, barcode, data matrix, etc). We set self to be the metadata delegate (this is why we implement the protocol), then the Apple documentation recommends using a serial queue which we can conveniently use the default queue from dispatch_get_main_queue().

If we want to see what the input is capturing, we need to add the following code (again, it’s useful to create global variables):

videoPreviewLayer = AVCaptureVideoPreviewLayer(session: captureSession)
videoPreviewLayer?.videoGravity = AVLayerVideoGravityResizeAspectFill
videoPreviewLayer?.frame = scannerView.layer.bounds


The video preview layer will display inputs from the camera, and then we want to bring our subview and label to front. For the pop-up effect, we set the .hidden property to false here. Finally, we can start capturing output with captureSession?.startRunning(). To end, simply use // Start video capture. captureSession?.stopRunning().

To process the output, we need to implement the following optional delegate method:

func captureOutput(captureOutput: AVCaptureOutput!, didOutputMetadataObjects metadataObjects: [AnyObject]!, fromConnection connection: AVCaptureConnection!) 

We’ll first check to see if the metadata objects are present with:

if metadataObjects == nil || metadataObjects.count == 0 {
    messageLabel.text = "No QR code is detected"

And finally, we can use the decoded text:

let metadataObj = metadataObjects[0] as! AVMetadataMachineReadableCodeObject

if metadataObj.type == AVMetadataObjectTypeDataMatrixCode {
    let barCodeObject = videoPreviewLayer?.transformedMetadataObjectForMetadataObject(metadataObj as AVMetadataMachineReadableCodeObject) as! AVMetadataMachineReadableCodeObject
    if metadataObj.stringValue != nil {
        messageLabel.text = metadataObj.stringValue

To nicely animate the pop-out or pop-in scanning, the below code can be very useful:

UIView.transitionWithView(scannerView, duration: 0.4, options: .TransitionCrossDissolve, animations: {
    self.scannerView.hidden = true // or false if you're making the view appear
    }, completion: nil)

Congrats! Now you have a nice pop-up scanner view that reads and displays barcodes! One final reminder: the application must be put onto a physical device to test out the barcode reading.