Communication with Blender via sockets
I’m always curious about expanding functionality and improving workflow by connecting devices to software that I already enjoy using. I love using Blender and making custom controllers for creating computer graphics is something very interesting to me.
As long as a program has a scripting environment or a plugin support, you can usually connect anything you like to it. In one of my previous experiments I’ve added a serial communication between Blender and a custom device. It was a bit clunky, obviously. Serial communication isn’t something you want to be run as a Blender’s subprocess.
A slightly more civilized solution would be to spawn a server instance on Blender’s side and poll for incoming messages. I’ve tried to implement something like that with sockets module. The idea was to see if a solution like that would mess with the primary process and how well does it handle communication with an outside world.
You’ll find the code below:
import socket import sys import bpy HOST = '127.0.0.1' PORT = 65432 s = socket.socket(socket.AF_INET, socket.SOCK_STREAM) s.bind((HOST, PORT)) # listen() marks the socket referred to by sockfd as a passive socket (awaits for an incoming connection, # which will spawn a new active socket once a connection is established), that is, as a socket that # will be used to accept incoming connection requests using accept(2). s.listen() # Extracts the first connection request on the queue of pending connections for the listening socket, # sockfd, creates a new connected socket, and returns a new file descriptor referring to that socket. # The newly created socket is not in the listening state. The original socket sockfd is unaffected by # this call. conn, addr = s.accept() conn.settimeout(0.0) def handle_data(): interval = 0.1 #print('Connected by: ', addr) data = None # In non-blocking mode blocking operations error out with OS specific errors. # https://docs.python.org/3/library/socket.html#notes-on-socket-timeouts try: data = conn.recv(1024) except: pass if not data: pass else: conn.sendall(data) # Fetch the 'Sockets' collection or create one. Anything created via sockets will be linked # to that collection. collection = None try: collection = bpy.data.collections["Sockets"] except: collection = bpy.data.collections.new("Sockets") bpy.context.scene.collection.children.link(collection) if "cube" in data.decode("utf-8"): mesh_data = bpy.data.meshes.new(name='m_cube') obj = bpy.data.objects.new('cube', mesh_data) collection.objects.link(obj) if "empty" in data.decode("utf-8"): empty = bpy.data.objects.new("empty", None) empty.empty_display_size = 2 empty.empty_display_type = 'PLAIN_AXES' collection.objects.link(empty) if "quit" in data.decode("utf-8"): conn.close() s.close() return interval bpy.app.timers.register(handle_data)
The script starts by importing necessary modules and creating a TCP socket, binded to the
localhost on port
Then a bit of sockets magic happens (it’s not that magical or complex…). A socket is instantiated.
That socket waits for a connection, and as soon as a client connects it creates another socket,
conn (for connection).
The next interesting part (skip the
handle_data definition for a second) is a call to Blender’s
bpy.app.timers.register(handle_data). This function registers a timer which will fire the
handle_data function. That function needs to return time, in seconds, after which the timer should
execute it again.
handle_data checks if there is any data to be processed. If it finds keywords:
cube in the message, it creates a new Empty object or a Cube mesh. Those will be put under
It also recognizes a
quit message. I’ve implemented that because after you run the script in
Blender’s environment you loose control. I’ve been iterating on the script and not closing the
socket correctly meant that it was still there, after the script exited, binded to the port.
That meant that I had to restart Blender.
This script is very rough. You have to start it manually every time you want to connect again. The
s.accept() is a blocking operation which means Blender hangs, until a client connects. As I’ve
mentioned it was a test, an experiment. It does work and doesn’t impact the Blender’s main loop.
You can test that script by running it from the Blender’s scripting tab, starting
netcat in a
terminal like so:
nc localhost 65432
That opens a prompt in which you can type the commands. You type
cube, smash that Enter key and
Blender spawns a cube.
I wish the idea of interprocess communication was a part of the core design of applications like Blender. It’s very common to have a scripting environment in apps like that. They always feel a bit hacky and tacked on.