Plücker Coordinates for the Rest of Us - Part 4 - Applications
by Lionel Brits (15 November 2001)

Return to The Archives
Basic Properties of Plücker Coordinates

Not all Plücker coordinates correspond to real lines in . In the first representation, a necessary condition for to be real is


given that (a line must have a direction), assuming that (lines not passing through the origin; recall ). Since lines passing through the origin are just as real as other lines, this test only rules out non-real lines, but doesn't confirm that a line is real. In the second representation, a line is real when

Furthermore, two Plücker coordinates and describe the same line if

for some and describe equal but oppositely directed lines for . Also lines and are perpendicular when and parallel when , although these two points are simple consequences from the geometry upon which Plücker coordinates are based.

Plane-Line Intersection

Recall that the equation that defines a plane with normal and distance from the origin , the set of points such that


Given a plane and a line , the homogeneous coordinate for the intersection of the two is given by:

which in Cartesian coordinates is equivalent to

Plane-Plane Intersection

Given two planes and , the Plücker coordinate for their intersection is given by:

Ray-Polygon and Ray-Convex Volume Intersection

The feature of Plücker coordinates which attracted me most was the simplicity of testing ray-polygon intersections [2]. If all the edges of a polygon are converted to their Plücker representations (taking care to order the vertices in the same direction) then taking the permuted inner product of the ray with each edge we can determine whether or not the ray passes through the polygon. For the ray to pass through the polygon, all the products must agree in sign (or one product, max two, must be zero, and the others must agree.) In the following diagram the edges move counterclockwise around the intersecting ray.

We can go further to compute the point of intersection with a triangle or a quadrilateral, if an intersection did occur. Consider a triangle with edges , , , where is the edge opposite to the nth vertex. Take the ray and its products with edges , , , being , , respectively. If their signs agree, we know that an intersection occurred. It turns out that these are the unnormalized barycentric coordinates for the point of intersection. If we take the normalization factor to be then the normalized barycentric coordinates are:

, , .

Now the point of intersection in Cartesian coordinates is the linear combination of the vertices , , . The point of intersection, , is then


The same method can be extended for testing for intersections of rays and convex volumes (e.g. a cube). The ray needs to intersect at least one face of the volume in order to intersect with the volume. The ray-polygon test can be optimized, however, because each edge is shared. Only one permuted inner product is therefore necessary per face.


Sadly, it's time to say goodbye. If you've made it this far without excessive convulsion, I salute you. If you've found you Zen, I salute you too! If you've found my Zen, please tell it to come home immediately. Let me know what you thought of my ramblings.

- Lionel Brits (

Greets and Thanks

Conor Stokes - for explaining a lot of concepts

Per Vognsen - for explaining what Conor meant

Grandpa Rogers - for super happy fun times with the hose

#flipcode and muh homies - for keeping me awake


[1] from





Article Series:
  • Plücker Coordinates for the Rest of Us - Part 1
  • Plücker Coordinates for the Rest of Us - Part 2
  • Plücker Coordinates for the Rest of Us - Part 3
  • Plücker Coordinates for the Rest of Us - Part 4 - Applications

    Copyright 1999-2008 (C) FLIPCODE.COM and/or the original content author(s). All rights reserved.
    Please read our Terms, Conditions, and Privacy information.