Passing numpy arrays to matlab

David Cournapeau david at
Tue Nov 7 20:43:21 CST 2006

Pauli Virtanen wrote:
> Hi all,
> ti, 2006-11-07 kello 11:23 +0900, David Cournapeau kirjoitti:
>>     I am trying to find a nice way to communicate between matlab and 
>> python. I am aware of pymat, which does that, but the code is 
>> deprecated, and I thing basing the code on ctypes would lead to much 
>> more robust code.
>> I have a really simple prototype which can send and get back data from 
>> matlab, but I was wondering if it would be possible to use a scheme 
>> similar to ctypes instead of having to convert it by hand.
> A while ago I wrote a mex extension to embed the Python interpreter
> inside Matlab:
> I guess it's something like an inverse of pymat :)
Yes, but at the end, I think they enable similar things. Thanks for the 
link !
> But I guess this is not really what you are looking for, since at
> present it just does a memory copy when passing arrays between Matlab
> and Python. Though, shared arrays might be just possible to implement if
> memory management is done carefully.
In my case, it is much worse:

    1 first, you have numpy data that you have to copy to mxArray, the 
structure representing arrays in matlab C api.
    2 then when you "send" data to the matlab engine, this is done 
automatically through pipe  by the matlab engine API (maybe pipe does 
not imply copying; I don't know much about pipe from a programming point 
of view, actually)
    3 The arrays you get back from matlab are in matlab mxArray 
structures: right now, I copy their data to new numpy arrays.

    At first, I just developed a prototype without thinking too much, 
and the result was much slower than I thought: sending a numpy  with 
2e5x10 double takes around 100 ms on my quite powerful machine (around 
14 cycles per item for the best case). I suspect it is because I copy 
memory in a non contiguous manner (matlab arrays have a internal F 
storage for real arrays, but complex arrays are really two different 
arrays, which is different than Fortran convention I think, making the 
copy cost really expensive for complex arrays). To see if I was doing 
something wrong, I compared with numpy.require(ar, requirements = 
'F_CONTIGUOUS'), which is even much slower
    There is not much I can do about 2, it looks like there is a way to 
avoid copying for 1, and my question was more specific to 3 (but 
reusable in 1, maybe, if I am smart enough). Basically:

     * how to create an object which has the same interface than numpy 
arrays, but owns the data from a foreign structure, which data are 
availble when building the object (The idea was to create a class which 
implements the array interface from python, kind of proxy class, which 
owns the data from mxArray; owns here is from a memory management point 
of view).


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