David Beckham 'speaks' 9 languages for new campaign to end malaria

The dubbing technology was pioneered by AI company Synthesia.

April 9, 2019, 12:52 PM

LONDON -- A health charity in the United Kingdom partnered up with David Beckham and an artificial intelligence company to produce a video where the soccer star appears to seamlessly speak nine languages, in what's being called the first "voice petition" to help end malaria.

Malaria No More UK released the video to promote their campaign "Malaria Must Die, So Millions Can Live," which is aimed at encouraging world leaders to commit to programs that end malaria across the globe.

Thanks to technology developed by the company Synthesia AI, Beckham can be seen seamlessly speaking nine languages -- English, Spanish, Kinyarwanda, Arabic, French, Hindi, Mandarin, Kiswahili and Yoruba -- in the public appeal.

"Malaria must die. One voice will be powerful, but all of our voices together, then they will have to listen," the former soccer player and activist says in English at the end of the video.

The charity is delighted to have someone with a public profile as big as Beckham's on board with the campaign.

"Malaria is a global challenge -- it knows no boundaries and is a disease that can affect us all," James Whiting, chief executive of Malaria No More UK told ABC News. "We want to reach a global audience with this campaign and are enormously grateful that we can use the reach of David Beckham to encourage people around the world to speak out and demand an end to malaria."

The charity released the video along with a "voice petition," through which people can record themselves speaking in order to "tell leaders that malaria must die, so millions can live," according to their website.

Victor Riparbelli, CEO of Synthesia, the company that pioneered the dubbing technology, told ABC News he was "very proud" of the technical team responsible for "bringing Beckham to life in different languages."

"It's a small step towards breaking down the language barriers that exist for video content today," he said. "If films, e-learning courses and YouTube material could be translated without having to endure 'Kung fu dubbing" or subtitles that distract it would appeal to a much larger audience. Especially with celebrities it can be very powerful to see them speak in your own language and I think this campaign proves that very well."

There were 129 million malaria cases 435,000 deaths globally in 2017, according to the latest statistics from the World Health Organization. The disease disproportionately affects a small number of countries.

An estimated 70% of malaria cases occur in just 11 countries -- India and 10 African nations, according to the WHO's 2018 Malaria Report.