Bathroom Lights

The first veryveryspaceship office in Fremont was an apartment. Although quirky and cozy, the floor plan wasn’t really made to meet the needs of a growing team. Specifically, the only bathroom in the office was off of the only meeting room in the office. This created a lot of awkward times where you had to walk through a meeting with an external partner, only to realize the bathroom was occupied. It also meant however long you spent in the bathroom was very obvious to meeting attendees. I decided I would try to at least solve the first problem.

I had been messing with Raspberry Pi Zero Ws for a bit and we had a lot of 3D printing experience within the studio. With those skills, I felt confident we could replicate an airplane bathroom occupancy indicator light.

The rough plan was to hook up a Raspberry Pi to a Neopixel array and then another Pi hooked to a reed switch on the bathroom door. My personal design goal was to not have a computer in the bathroom, so it was built to be hooked up external to the bathroom. Having everything decoupled might seem like overkill, but I had broader plans for a network of addressable widgets. For this project, I wanted a dumb switch that just signaled to whoever cared that something was open or closed and then I wanted a dumb sign that you could tell to light up with a certain color.

After I worked out the kinks with the base hardware, I wanted to figure out an enclosure. One of our 3D artists, Alexei, went back and forth on a few different enclosures that would house the RPi0W + the LED strip. Eventually we found a good solution to pack everything in.

At the same time, we were messing with edge-lighting some acrylic panels. We really liked the subtle glow and the quality of the light coming off of the acrylic. After more experimentation with etching it manually, we enlisted one of our engineers, David, and his Glowforge to give us a clean etch on the acrylic. Being a spaceship-themed company, we of course needed to stay on brand with the imagery. After some research by Matt and Galen on ALIEN-style icons for ship areas, we settled on a logo we liked and etched a few different depths to see how the light would work. We tweaked the 3D printed enclosure to accommodate the acrylic and then painted and weathered the whole fixture.

Even though this is obviously a small problem to solve, it was very fulfilling to build since we had a clear goal and we had so many complementary skills come together to contribute. Because it was such an inconsequential thing, more people were game to jump in and help and they understood exactly how their piece would fit into the broader goal.

Ironically, by the time we finished this project, we were already in talks to move to a new office with a more sensible layout. Luckily for us though, the new office also only had one bathroom. And it had two floors. Because we built the tech to be pretty dumb, it was easy to make another bathroom sign and tie it into the existing system so both floors could happily keep track of things.


At vvs we had monthly socials where we invited friends, family, game industry peers, and future friends by our studio to hang out. Since a lot of people congregated in areas that the two bathroom lights weren’t visible, I remixed my custom Gashapon Capsule Station to also serve as a bathroom indicator. Since it had an RGB strip in it too, all I had to do was update it to listen to the internal “widget message bus” and react accordingly.

Galen and I thought it would be funny to hint at some secret projects to see if it piqued anyone’s interest to help. In what is perhaps the shortest lived and most poorly attended art exhibition, we made this to ‘promote’ our projects. The one on the left is an airplane bathroom to subtly reveal this project. Still not sure what the other one is.