Learning Three.js

or WebGL for Dummies

Let's Make a 3D Game: Device Orientation

Here is another article of the “Let’s Make a 3D Game” series. It is about device orientation, another input you can use for your games. We have already seen how to handle the keyboard input. Device orientation input is more instinctive tho. The user doesnt need to learn controls. It is already enabled in our game marblesoccer. Here is a video of me playing with it.

You need a computer which support WebGL and device orientation to actually play with it. Unfortunatly, macbook is the only computer i know able to do that. On one hand, most smartphones already support device orientation API. On the other hand, smartphones support for WebGL is sparse at best. So this input will become very usefull if we start supporting three.js renderers available on phones, such as canvas or DOM.

Let’s get started

As usual, i did a little helper to make it easier for you to include it in your games. It is called THREEx.DeviceOrientationState. You download this API from here and include it in your page like this

<script src='THREEx.DeviceOrientationState.js'></script>

How to use it ?

Now that the script is included, create a device variable like this.

var device = new THREEx.DeviceOrientationState();

After that, if you want the angle the device with the x axis, just use .angleX() function. You can use .angleY() and .angleZ(), you guessed which angle they provide. Suppose you want a THREE.Mesh to stay still on y axis while you are moving the device, just copy this line

mesh.rotation.y  = device.angleY();

If you ever want to stop listening to the device orientation, just use this line


What about the standard ?

Sometime it may be interesting to understand the root of things. Let’s do a rapid introduction of the device orientation API itself. For authoritative details, the spec is always a nice place. If you want more info on it, html5rocks or mdn articles are a good start. First let’s bind the event.

window.addEventListener('deviceorientation',  callback, false);

Here is an example of callback

function callback(event){
    console.log("orientation gamma:", event.gamma, "beta", event.beta, "alpha", event.alpha);

Be carefull tho, gamma, beta, alpha may not be set depending on the device your game is running on. For example on macbook, alpha is always null.


For more details on THREEx.DeviceOrientationState, see its annoted source. It is a simple and instinctive way to control the player. It is closer to real-life and thus provides a more immersive experience. In the future we will likely do be a virtual joystick for touch enabled device.