Another Architecture

by Mitch McEwen

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    Primate is doubly digital

    Mitch McEwen
    Jul 8, '13 8:06 PM EST

    This is a brief summary of Primate, the plugin that I created to integrate Leap Motion with parametric design in Grasshopper.   

    For me there are 3) big break-throughs that Leap enables.  1) bringing to digital processes an intuitive access to 3 dimensions.  That is very different than a mouse that moves around on a fixed plane.  2) ability to model interaction from design through use 3) the specificity of understanding hands, which are arguably one of the most defining things about us as a species.

    Related to this 3rd point, I want to take a moment to mention the etymology of the word digital

    Digital, itself, comes from fingers.  The word digital emerges in the English language in the 1650s, meaning "pertaining to fingers," from the Latin digitalis, from digitus (see digit).  So, when we are designing with our hands in the computer we are thinking digitally in both the 17th century sense of the word and the 21st century sense.

    That said, here are the basics on Primate, the plug-in that I created to integrate Leap Motion into parameter-based design.  Primate works with Grasshopper (the graphical algorithm editor that generates openNURBS geometry through Rhino).  Primate uses original C# components to create communication between the Leap device and the full suite of 3D parameters available in Grasshopper.  What follows is a demo video.

    This video shows a simple grid demo.  I will be adding more videos on specific design problems that I am working on with Primate.  Those videos will be more technical, working with vector field charges and data recorders that build point clouds from pointing fingers or other hand data.  More info at

    Primate demo


    • Quondam, thank you so much for thoughtful comment and encouraging feedback.  All of the ideas you mention - from speech to gesture to the capacity of speech and gesture to merge in sign language - are things that I have been interested in during this project.  An artist that I collaborated with in New York recently did an amazing solo project in Chile about teaching sign language in a museum.  I was following some of that work while setting up the first rev of Primate.

      Mostly I am interested in the shift from designing objects to designing open ended processes.  I think this leads more to gestures than to speech, but it is still very new for me.

      My positions should hopefully be clearer as I start posting some of the design situations that I am prototyping with Primate.

      Thanks again,


      Jul 9, 13 11:31 am  · 

      Wow, thanks again.  That last sentence is a huge compliment. I appreciate it.

      Jul 9, 13 2:22 pm  · 

      Primate is now available on Food4Rhino. This release of Primate requires both the Leap Motion Controller and Leap SDK files (Csharp and other dlls).

      Jul 10, 13 1:35 pm  · 

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Posts are sporadic. Topics span architecture, urban design, planning, and tangents from these. I sometimes include excerpts of academic articles.

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