aframe Entities


A-Frame represents an entity via the <a-entity> element. As defined in the entity-component-system pattern, entities are placeholder objects to which we plug in components to provide them appearance, behavior, and functionality.


  • <a-entity> // Consider the entity below. By itself, it has no appearance, behavior, or functionality. It does nothing:
  • <a-entity geometry="primitive: box" material="color: red"> // We can attach components to it to make it render something or do something. To give it shape and appearance, we can attach the geometry and material components:
  • <a-entity geometry="primitive: box" material="color: red" light="type: point; intensity: 2.0"> // Or to make it emit light, we can further attach the light component:


components<a-entity>.components is an object of components attached to the entity. This gives us access to the entity’s components including each component’s data, state, and methods.
isPlayingWhether the entity is active and playing. If we pause the entity, then isPlaying becomes false.
object3D<a-entity>.object3D is a reference to the entity’s three.js Object3D representation. More specifically, object3D will be a THREE.Group object that may contain different types of THREE.Object3Ds such as cameras, meshes, lights, or sounds:
object3DMapAn entity’s object3DMap is an object that gives access to the different types of THREE.Object3Ds (e.g., camera, meshes, lights, sounds) that components have set.
sceneElAn entity has a reference to its scene element.



addState (stateName)

addState will push a state onto the entity. This will emit the stateadded event, and we can check the state can for existence using .is:

entity.addEventListener('stateadded', function (evt) {
  if (evt.detail.state === 'selected') {
    console.log('Entity now selected!');
entity.addState('selected');'selected');  // >> true

emit (name, detail, bubbles)

emit emits a custom DOM event on the entity. For example, we can emit an event to trigger an animation:

  <a-animation attribute="rotation" begin="rotate" to="0 360 0"></a-animation>

We can also pass event detail or data as the second argument:

entity.emit('collide', { target: collidingEntity });

The event will bubble by default. we can tell it not to bubble by passing false for bubble:

entity.emit('sink', null, false);

flushToDOM (recursive)

flushToDOM will manually serialize an entity’s components’ data and update the DOM.

getAttribute (componentName)

getAttribute retrieves parsed component data (including mixins and defaults).

// <a-entity geometry="primitive: box; width: 3">
// >> {primitive: "box", depth: 2, height: 2, translate: "0 0 0", width: 3, ...}
// >> "box"
// >> 2
// >> {x: 0, y: 0, z: 0}

If componentName is not the name of a registered component, getAttribute will behave as it normally would:

// <a-entity data-position="0 1 1">
// >> "0 1 1"

getDOMAttribute (componentName)

getDOMAttribute retrieves only parsed component data that is explicitly defined in the DOM or via setAttribute. If componentName is the name of a registered component, getDOMAttribute will return only the component data defined in the HTML as a parsed object. getDOMAttribute for components is the partial form of getAttribute since the returned component data does not include applied mixins or default values:

Compare the output of the above example of getAttribute:

// <a-entity geometry="primitive: box; width: 3">
// >> { primitive: "box", width: 3 }
// >> "box"
// >> undefined
// >> undefined

getObject3D (type)

getObject3D looks up a child THREE.Object3D referenced by type on object3DMap.

AFRAME.registerComponent('example-mesh', {
  init: function () {
     var el = this.el;
     el.getOrCreateObject3D('mesh', THREE.Mesh);
     el.getObject3D('mesh');  // Returns THREE.Mesh that was just created.

getOrCreateObject3D (type, Constructor)

If the entity does not have a THREE.Object3D registered under type, getOrCreateObject3D will register an instantiated THREE.Object3D using the passed Constructor. If the entity does have an THREE.Object3D registered under type, getOrCreateObject3D will act as getObject3D:

AFRAME.registerComponent('example-geometry', {
  update: function () {
    var mesh = this.el.getOrCreateObject3D('mesh', THREE.Mesh);
    mesh.geometry = new THREE.Geometry();

pause ()

pause() will stop any dynamic behavior as defined by animations and components. When we pause an entity, it will stop its animations and call Component.pause() on each of its components. The components decide to implement what happens on pause, which is often removing event listeners. An entity will call pause() on its child entities when we pause an entity.

// <a-entity id="spinning-jumping-ball">

For example, the look-controls component on pause will remove event handlers that listen for input.

play ()

play() will start any dynamic behavior as defined by animations and components. This is automatically called when the DOM attaches an entity. When an entity play(), the entity calls play() on its child entities.


For example, the sound component on play will begin playing the sound.

setAttribute (componentName, value, [propertyValue | clobber])

If componentName is not the name of a registered component or the component is a single-property component, setAttribute behaves as it normally would:

entity.setAttribute('visible', false);

Though if componentName is the name of a registered component, it may handle special parsing for the value. For example, the position component is a single-property component, but its property type parser allows it to take an object:

entity.setAttribute('position', { x: 1, y: 2, z: 3 });

setObject3D (type, obj)

setObject3D will register the passed obj, a THREE.Object3D, as type under the entity’s object3DMap. A-Frame adds obj as a child of the entity’s root object3D.

AFRAME.registerComponent('example-orthogonal-camera', {
  update: function () {
    this.el.setObject3D('camera', new THREE.OrthogonalCamera());

removeAttribute (componentName, propertyName)

If componentName is the name of a registered component, along with removing the attribute from the DOM, removeAttribute will also detach the component from the entity, invoking the component’s remove lifecycle method.

entity.removeAttribute('goemetry');  // Detach the geometry component.
entity.removeAttribute('sound');  // Detach the sound component.

If propertyName is given, removeAttribute will reset the property value of that property specified by propertyName to the property’s default value:

entity.setAttribute('material', 'color', 'blue');  // The color is blue.
entity.removeAttribute('material', 'color');  // Reset the color to the default value, white.

removeObject3D (type)

removeObject3D removes the object specified by type from the entity’s THREE.Group and thus from the scene. This will update the entity’s object3DMap, setting the value of the type key to null. This is generally called from a component, often within the remove handler:

AFRAME.registerComponent('example-light', {
  update: function () {
    this.el.setObject3D('light', new THREE.Light());
    // Light is now part of the scene.
    // object3DMap.light is now a THREE.Light() object.
  remove: function () {
    // Light is now removed from the scene.
    // object3DMap.light is now null.

removeState (stateName)

removeState will pop a state from the entity. This will emit the stateremoved event, and we can check the state its removal using .is:

entity.addEventListener('stateremoved', function (evt) {
  if (evt.detail.state === 'selected') {
    console.log('Entity no longer selected.');
entity.addState('selected');'selected');  // >> true
entity.removeState('selected');'selected');  // >> false


Event NameDescription
child-attachedA child entity was attached to the entity.
child-detachedA child entity was detached from the entity.
componentchangedOne of the entity’s components was modified.
componentinitOne of the entity’s components was initialized.
componentremovedOne of the entity’s components was removed.
loadedThe entity has attached and initialized its components.
object3dsetTHREE.Object3D was set on entity using setObject3D(name). Event detail will contain name used to set on the object3DMap.
pauseThe entity is now inactive and paused in terms of dynamic behavior.
playThe entity is now active and playing in terms of dynamic behavior.
stateaddedThe entity received a new state.
stateremovedThe entity no longer has a certain state.
schemachangedThe schema of a component was changed.


Below is what the event detail contains for each event:

Event NamePropertyDescription
child-attachedelReference to the attached child element.
componentchangednameName of component that had its data modified.
idID of component that had its data modified.
newDataComponent’s new data, after it was modified.
oldDataComponent’s previous data, before it was modified.
componentinitializednameName of component that was initialized.
idID of component that had its data modified.
dataComponent data.
componentremovednameName of component that was removed.
idID of component that was removed.
stateaddedstateThe state that was attached (string).
stateremovedstateThe state that was detached (string).
schemachangedcomponentName of component that had it’s schema changed.