algorithmic modeling for Rhino



Firefly offers a set of comprehensive software tools dedicated to bridging the gap between Grasshopper, (a free plug-in for Rhino) the Arduino microcontroller and other input/output devices. It allows near real-time data flow between the digital and physical worlds – enabling the possibility to explore virtual and physical prototypes with unprecedented fluidity.

Location: Cambridge, MA
Members: 436
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Firefly Experiments

As a generative modeling tool, Grasshopper offers a fluid visual interface for creating sophisticated parametric models, but by default, it lacks the ability to communicate with hardware devices such as programmable microcontrollers or haptic interfaces. Firefly fills this void. It is an extension to the Grasshopper’s parametric interface; combining a specialized set of components with a novel communication protocol (called the Firefly Firmata or Firmware) which together enable real-time communication between hardware devices and the parametric plug-in for Rhino.

Key Features

  • Read / Write to Arduino microcontrollers and other devices
  • Visualize Sensor Data within Firefly / Grasshopper
  • Control LEDS, Lights, Motors, Valves and more
  • Control Stepper Motors (for 3d Printers and end effectors) 
  • Stream Web Cams and connect with Mobile Devices (iOS + Android) using OSC and UDP
  • Connect to Internet Feeds and search XML Feeds 
  • Generate code to upload to an Arduino Board
  • Basic sound input and processing tools
  • Datalogging, counting and playback
  • Machine Vision toolkit including edge detection, color filtering, convolution filtering and much more
  • Kinect toolkit including skeleton tracking

A notable distinction for Firefly is that it is the first visual microcontroller programming environment designed specifically for a 3-D parametric CAD package (such as Rhino). This feature means that real-world data, acquired from various types of sensors or other input devices (video cameras, internet feeds, or mobile phone devices, etc.) can be used to explicitly define parametric relationships within a Grasshopper model. Firefly completes the communication feedback loop by allowing users the ability to send information from Grasshopper back to the microcontroller in order to incite specific actuations (ie. lights, motors, valves, etc). Ultimately, this workflow creates a new way to create interactive prototypes.

Discussion Forum

Gate Switch that streams Data depending on Boolean State 2 Replies

Hello Everyone,I have a question about Firefly. I installed it and made up a definition in Grasshopper and everything works fine there. But when I try to generate Code it says that one part of my Grasshopper file can't be translatet (in the picture…Continue

Started by Thomas Lechner. Last reply by Michal Cichy on Saturday.

installation problem??? 3 Replies

Hi. I am just trying to figure it out what went wrong. I can't figure it out by myself as I tried to check as much as I could. As you can see from the attached file, simple tone generator definition is not even working. Is there any other software…Continue

Started by kwanphil cho. Last reply by Andy Payne on Thursday.

Minor Bug. New Build Released

Hi everyone.  I recently found a small bug with the Firefly Firmata.  There is a variable in the Firmata (called numcycles) which controls how quickly the Arduino board sends data over to Grasshopper.  When I was rewriting the Firefly Firmata during…Continue

Tags: Firefly

Started by Andy Payne on Wednesday.

Stepper Speed – Using quad stepper sketch

Hello there!I am currently using the Quad Stepper Motor Stream component from Firefly in conjunction with the quad stepper sketch on the Arduino Mega 2560 board. I have got all 4 motors working independently and responding to the inputs I am…Continue

Tags: arduino, firefly, speed, quadstepper, motor

Started by Andre Kong Mar 23.


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Comment Wall


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Comment by Juan Sepulveda on March 1, 2015 at 8:17am

Hello everybody,

I share the video from the Adaptive Facade Workshop that European Facade Network organized in Lucerne in November 2014, all the students used Firefly for the mock-ups...

Comment by Andy Payne on February 25, 2015 at 4:55pm

Hi Kwanphil.  Unfortunately, at this moment it is not possible to load in an mp3 file directly.  You could play it over the speakers and use the other audio components to read in the microphone data... but reading in an mp3 file isn't currently supported.

Comment by kwanphil cho on February 25, 2015 at 12:58pm

Hi. thank you for letting me in the group. Just quick question. is there any way to bring mp3 file and play in firefly? I would like to extract data from specific mp3 file if it is possible. Any advice will be greatly appreciated. Thank in advance.

Comment by Justin Hare on January 14, 2015 at 7:41am

Andy, I was previously running Windows via Bootcamp and it worked fine. I had an issue after updating to Yosemite that lost the partition so I reinstalled everything and decided to go the Parallels route. Might not have been the best idea. 

Comment by Andy Payne on January 14, 2015 at 7:38am

Justin, was this working before on a different system configuration?

Comment by Justin Hare on January 14, 2015 at 7:26am

Help! Switched to using Parallels and now Kinect doesn't work. I know there is an issue with Kinect not properly connecting in other programs. I haven't had any luck finding a solution. Any suggestions?

Comment by awkweird on December 2, 2014 at 11:32pm

Thank you for advice Mr.Andy. I am almost finished my project, however I have another question that is eliminating my pc from the entire work. Which means uploading these grasshopper codes to Arduino. I have seen the CodeGene component but quite not sure whether Ardiuno itself could handle the computing process of Leap motion data. Should i use arduino with usb connection? or other device that would be connection between leapmotion and Arduino board?
Here is my multiple Servo motor connection video.

Comment by Andy Payne on November 12, 2014 at 5:56pm

Amartuvshin, please see this thread about controlling multiple servos

Comment by awkweird on November 12, 2014 at 9:16am

Thank you Mr.Andy. It really helps a lot!
I switched the cables, and now servo works fine. However still some problem with the LEDs. The reason is my resisters are not 220 in my opinion. I've checked resister calulator and i installed on my bread. 
I have one more question. what if i want to control more servo motors individually. Do i need more arduinos or some other device to connect with my arduino uno?
This picture is showing what I am testing right now.Thank you. Have a great day!

Comment by Andy Payne on November 11, 2014 at 9:43am

Hi Amartuvshin.  Thanks for posting the images... they're really helpful.  I think what's going on is a hardware issue.  Looking at your circuit, I think you have the 5V and GND lines coming from your servo connected to the wrong wires.  If you look at the servo and the three wires coming from it, you'll notice a brown, red, and yellow.  The brown wire needs to be connected to GND, but it looks like you've connected it to the 5V line.  The red wire on the servo need to be conencted to the 5V line, but it's connected to GND.  I think because these are reversed, it's causing the connection to your serial port to drop which is why you aren't seeing it show up under the Serial Ports in the IDE.  

My suggestion would be to first close Grasshopper/Rhino.  You don't necessarily need to do this, but it will ensure that you don't have the COM port open.  Then, switch the hardware wires and see if the COM port shows back up in the IDE.  If it does, then try to re-upload the Firefly Firmata to make sure it's properly loaded.  If it gets uploaded properly, then go ahead and re-open Grasshopper/Rhino and see if the example file works properly.


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