Has AI voice tech gone too far? This deepfake ad’s been taking some flak for making it appear as though football legend, male model and family man ‘Becks’ is a polyglot.
The days of ‘seeing is believing’ are almost over, it seems.
Fashion designer Victoria Beckham’s husband has lent his skills to raising awareness of malaria – which kills a child every two minutes – before, for example in this somewhat disturbing 2018 short film by renowned director Ridley Scott.
In this new campaign, Becks ‘speaks’ in nine different languages to get us all signing a voice petition.
Deepfake, the technique that’s made it possible, means using artificial intelligence (AI) for human image synthesis. You can see David’s lips move, and thanks to AI, they’re moving in perfect synch with the language being spoken. If you’re interested in how it was done, here’s the three-minute backstage video.
If you’re just thinking, ‘oh that’s so cool’, fine. It is, after all, a really effective use of new tech. And you’re clearly not a dubbing talent looking at losing their highly-skilled job. But that’s not the whole story.
Fake news is no laughing matter, and the campaign has sparked controversy over the spectre of deepfake voice tech being used to literally put words into the mouths of the kind of people who can influence life-and-death world events, such as politicians.
Voice is making a huge comeback, and the Malaria Must Die ad featured here works with that too, by offering a voice petition response rather than a written one. Many people enjoy using voice-activated home appliances like Alexa, and we all know (or are) podcast aficionados relishing the intimacy of the spoken word delivered straight to us, and only us (as it feels).
Weaving the various threads together takes us back to Halloween eve in 1938 and the power of radio when actor Orson Welles wrote and narrated a dramatization of H.G. Wells’ science-fiction novel ‘The War of the Worlds’. The broadcast of an alien invasion was so realistic that it scared many night-time listeners, and prompted outrage for cruelly deceiving the listening public.