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The Story Behind Bullfrog Spas’ Virtual Reality Experience

For over 20 years the name Bullfrog Spas has been synonymous with innovation in the world of well-engineered hot tubs. Now Bullfrog Spas is pioneering the use of premium Hollywood-quality virtual reality experiences in the retail space.


Wait, what? A hot tub company is leading the expansion of VR into retail and producing Hollywood level VR?




In late 2016, Bullfrog Spas premiered our first virtual reality experience, The New Reality.


Since then, we’ve powered ahead, packaging and distributing a VR-powered showroom sales kit for hot tub dealers that has revolutionized experiential retail. This ultra-high-quality virtual reality experience is powered by HTC Vive VR technology and includes the hardware and software needed to run a sensory-stimulating 5-minute VR product tour along with additional interactive VR experiences, all happening inside retailer’s showrooms.


Join Bullfrog Spas’ Creative Director, Samson Madsen, as he describes the story behind Bullfrog Spas’ revolutionary sales tool from Concept to Deployment.


Our hope: experiential retail will save brick-and-mortar stores and that virtual reality can create that exceptional in-store experience. In the pursuit of this hope our goal becomes to use VR technology to produce an immersive and engaging showroom sales tool that overwhelmingly improves the customer experience for spa retailers.


To accomplish this we would take the defined and successful language and presentation of the branding piece Water Reimagined and create a 5 minute VR product tour that would not only be informative, but visual and visceral. 


We had to get more creative than ever to create VR experience, especially the right VR experience. Today’s VR cameras and rigs are developed by technicians, not storytellers. All the existing hardware operates pretty much the same, capturing 360 degrees at wide angles, which is then stitched together to form a 360-degree view. But wide angles don’t tell an intimate focused story. In cinematic language a wide lens is used for establishing shots or stylizing an image with infinite depth-of-field. Virtual reality, however, needs stories that take advantage of a very intimate medium. VR is immersive. It completely transforms your perceived world. In the real world our attention is directed by light, contrast, depth, movement, and host of other things. VR needs those same stimuli. Since wide shots lack intimacy, and the existing hardware lacks control over the image we needed to develop imaging equipment to help us tell a story while maintaining control of the user’s attention.


This is where it got fun.


We developed our own 3 step filming process (foreground, midground, background) with 3 different types of cameras and lenses, which necessitated the engineering and machining of our own proprietary rigs. We tested it, and to our glee, it worked.


We couldn’t be happier with what we achieved: truly intimate storytelling, in VR.


Moving from image capture to evolved storytelling required just the right settings and the right props. We knew that we wanted to take a customer on a journey, while telling just the right story about our product and brand. As the experience needed to appeal to customers around the world, without too much instruction required, we determined it necessary to create a comfortable, yet sensory rich, experience within a detailed presentation that we could control. The New Reality is just such an experience. The customer sits inside a real spa, perceives a matching virtual spa in the same relative position, and enjoys a soothing guided presentation exhibiting product features, differentiation, and an explanation of product benefits.


But VR can be interactive as well.


So, in order to take advantage of the interactivity available in high-end VR, the second part of our experience evolved into an interactive product configurator within a virtual 360-degree home environment. The VR SpaDesign experience provides customers the opportunity to interact with our product, especially our patented JetPak Therapy System, a feature that offers interchangeable modular jetted spa seats. In VR SpaDesign you are empowered to select and manipulate all of your preferred product features, including the spa model, massages, and the colors of your choice.


With both VR experiences available for both in-store and off-site events, now retailers could expand the reach of VR, making it not only a great sales tool, but also a lead generation opportunity and entertainment piece, all without the expensive costs of opening new locations.   It would be the retailers portable showroom, sales person, marketing collateral, and ordering system all operated by one staff member.


In order to accomplish this project in time for a launch at the 2016 International Pool | Spa | Patio Expo, the industry’s largest gathering, we had to update and upgrade existing infrastructure to handle massive amounts of data, storage, GPU, and computing power. The team completed a 30′ x 60′ 360-degree blue screen sound stage and headed out to capture 360-degree backgrounds. Locations included the deserts of central Utah, the moving cosmos from mountain tops over 11,000 feet, and a capture of the Perseid Meteor Shower with 360-degree time lapse photography. The team returned home to begin the massive project of stitching together all the scenics and beginning rehearsal of the necessary theatrical staging and principle photography. Because traditional cutting and editing can’t happen in 360-degree VR all the shots were planned to be one-takes. 3 full days of rehearsal culminated in a single day of shooting on stage. The custom camera rig, allowed us to perfect delivery, change lenses, focus, and achieve that intimacy we needed to tell the story.


After the principal photography we moved quickly into VFX. The spas and most other objects needed to be created in 3D, takes of the actor needed to be stitched and composited, and backgrounds all needed to be stitched and rendered, all this in less than a month.


The beta version of both experiences was rendered and launched 2 hours before the opening of the IPSPE 2016 in New Orleans.




There was a tremendous reception. People lined up to try it and people sat mesmerized, looking all around at the virtual world. In addition, the hands-on feedback from customers at this show allowed us to take note of the improvements needed for a wide retail showroom release.


Orders poured in for VR showroom kits and we fast-tracked this project to be a top priority for a Q1 retail launch. This required sourcing all the components for these kits, from computers and hardware, to creating setup instruction and troubleshooting materials, all while polishing both VR experiences. The experienced was launched in showrooms across North America in early February. Orders are still coming in and customer data is being collected. So far, this massive undertaking by a small but forward-thinking hot tub company is turning into a successful launch that is reshaping the retail experience.


Who would have thought it?


Inside little mom and pop spa stores across North America you’ll find one of the world’s most innovative VR experiences and one of the most creative marketing applications of VR to date.




For over 20 years the name Bullfrog Spas has been synonymous with innovation in the world of well-engineered hot tubs. Now Bullfrog Spas is pioneering another first by bringing virtual reality to the spa retail space. This was the “can’t miss exhibition” at the 2016 International Pool | Spa | Patio Show and we are making it so you can get a little piece of the experience with our VR viewer and your smartphone.


See what Bullfrog Spas is all about, in VR. Request your VR viewer today.*


*Supplies are limited. VR Viewers are currently reserved for members of the press, VR developer community, and those interested in becoming a Bullfrog Spas dealer. If you’d like to experience this VR experience for yourself please contact your local Bullfrog Spas dealership and inquired about VR availability. 

Claim your free virtual reality viewer and see what Bullfrog Spas is doing to revolutionize spa retailing. Fill out the form above.