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: 596
Latest Activity: Oct 20

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

Slow stepper motor 1 Reply

Hello,, I am trying to send data directly from firefly mega write to a stepper motor with the firefly firmata.. I got the sequence of pulses that need to be sent.. problem is that it is not being sent fast enough.. I have a 1 ms timer rotating…Continue

Started by Zayed. Last reply by Zayed Oct 19.

How can Arduino 5V 4-Phase Stepper Motor with ULN2003 Control Board be controled inside Firefly? 8 Replies

Hi guysCould anyone think of any way to control Arduino 5V 4-Phase Stepper Motor with ULN2003 Control Board inside Firefly?I have already tried Firefly_QuadStepper sketch and couldn't find any way around it, for the Sketch only controls 4 wire…Continue

Started by Seyed Ehsan Ayatollah. Last reply by Zayed Oct 11.

How to control stepper motor with firefly? 5 Replies

Hi, I have controlled servo motor  with firefly lately but i couldnt find any way to control stepper motor through it...The (Attach Files) is the way I control one servo motor in arduion with firefly.Is there any solution that i can control stepper…Continue

Started by Ali-Haung. Last reply by Zayed Oct 9.

Arduino mega error 3 Replies

Hi all,I need to set up the Arduino mega with Firefly, but when I go running the Firefly_Firmata it gives me an error!Can you help me with that? ThanksContinue

Started by Ahmad Eltaweel. Last reply by Andy Payne Jul 11.


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Comment Wall


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Comment by Matthew J Flamm on July 5, 2018 at 12:46pm

Im (probably) re-upping to Rhino 6 over 5 because the display and presentation tools in the new build are plausibly at a level of maturity now that they can be used for scaled drawings and shaded view ports in a professional capacity.  Built-in section tools?!  mind-blown!

It looks like the last build of Firefly was in 2015 for Rhino5.

Are there any plans to give this project another pass for Rhino 6 compatibility? 

The Kinect 2.0 for Windows depth, color and mesh streams were of phenomenal utility!

I understand that there are multiple routes for obtaining this information like the SDK, and PrimeSense had a branch working on Kinect..

If this project is on a good long pause, I may try to write a bridge for this information into grasshopper for Rhino 6 using the Kinect 2.0 for Window SDK.  Im just a code-kitty though, so that might be more than is realistic ^_^.

Is this binary right now? Rhino 5 + all plugins, or Rhino 6 and no promises?

Miss you Firefly <3

Comment by Ali-Haung on February 22, 2016 at 7:27am

Comment by Ali-Haung on February 2, 2016 at 12:16pm

Comment by Rafael on July 9, 2015 at 1:14am

Hi everyone. I just recently created a group about a project based on the use of arduino + grasshopper and Firefly. It is called The Mini Airflow Tunnel Project: The idea is to use grasshopper and firefly to operate a low-cost wind tunnel with arduino and wind sensors.

Comment by Christian Schmidts on July 4, 2015 at 5:00pm

Is there a way to merge the the Firefly firmata with the quadstepper in order to drive one stepper motor and other devices at the same time with one Arduino? Is it generally possible? Cheers!

Comment by xiao-g on April 18, 2015 at 12:50am

Hello All,

I just installed Firefly 64bit for Rhino5. But when I have trouble to launch grasshopper when it loads Firefly.X. It pops a warning as the image attached. 

Could anyone kindly suggest how to solve it? Many many thanks!

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. 


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