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The interactive example from react-three

This is the interactive example from react-three, a javascript library built on top of React and three.js. This allows you to use the declarative component structure of React to create and manipulate the 3D scene objects used by three.js.

Click on the cherry cube to add a lollipop cube at a random position and orientation. Click on a lollipop cube to remove it.

Normally when using a scene-graph library such as three.js you can manually manipulate a scene-graph to change what is drawn on the screen. If you want an additional object drawn in a 3D scene, you create a mesh object and add it to the scene graph so that three.js will draw it the next time you call render().

Using this library you can manipulate three.js objects using React. Instead of creating and destroying three.js objects manually, you manipulate some sort of application state and use that to “drive” what exists in the scene graph, and thus effect what gets drawn on the screen.

The application state for this example is simply a dictionary (set of key-value pairs). All of the current removable cubes (the green lollipop cubes) are stored as an array of dictionaries. The application state typically has no three.js objects in it, so (for example) you could save the application state to disk or send it over the network via JSON and reconstruct the 3D scene somewhere else.

g_applicationstate = {
  cubes:[{...cube 1 data...}, {...cube 2 data...},...],

Next you use React to create components. A component defines a relationship between parts of the application state and the three.js scene graph. For example, the relationship between an instance of cube data and the three.js mesh is pretty simple. The component uses a predefined cube geometry and looks up the (generated and cached) three.js material to use based on a texture name stored in the cube data.

    render: function() {
        var boxmaterial = lookupmaterial(this.props.materialname);
        var cubeprops = _.clone(this.props);
        cubeprops.geometry = boxgeometry;
        cubeprops.material = boxmaterial;
        return ReactTHREE.Mesh(cubeprops);

Small low-level components are composed together into larger components. Eventually you will reach the top-level component which typically represents the entire “application” or in our case the canvas/scene used by three.js.

To change something in the scene, you don’t manually manipulate the scene graph. Instead you change the application state (perhaps adding or removing a single cube) and then pass the new state to React, which will update the scene appropriately to reflect this new application state:

// if the application state is modified call this to update the GUI

function updateApp() {

Note that in this example the geometry and material(s) are generated elsewhere, not in line. The react-three library won’t do automatic management of these resources for you, just as three.js doens’t prescribe a certain way to load and cache resources.

You can look in the interactive example code directory for more information.