Former soccer star and current celebrity David Beckham has the augmented reality abilities of Facebook and Instagram as allies in the effort to eradicate malaria from the world.
The "Malaria Must Die So Millions Can Live" campaign launched earlier this year with Beckham as its spokesperson, but, the campaign is kicking up activity with augmented reality experiences and outdoor advertising this week, concurrent with the 74th United Nations General Assembly meetings, taking place Sept. 23-27 in New York.
Throughout New York, 2,000 digital billboard ads will feature Beckham enveloped in a swarm of mosquitos. Also, creative studio Powster provided its talents pro bono to create an augmented reality camera effect with Facebook's Spark AR platform.
The effect covers the user's face in a terrifying cage of virtual mosquitos, which can only be dissipated by "speaking up." When the filter detects speech using sound recognition, the swarm dissipates. But it returns when the user is silent (though some users may be hesitant to open their mouths at the risk of swallowing a bunch of mosquitos).
The AR experience is available via Instagram and Facebook as well as digital displays powered by Quividi and located in strategic locations in New York, namely Tavern on the Green Cafe in Central Park and Westfield Shopping Centre at World Trade Center, as well as Westfield Garden State Plaza in Paramus, New Jersey.
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"We're extremely proud to have the opportunity to support such an important campaign," said Abi Smith, creative director of Powster, in a statement provided to Next Reality. "Working with Spark AR and Quividi provides a fantastic platform for us to innovate and share the message to 'Speak Up' with audiences on and offline in a way that is both playful and meaningful. It's exciting to employ our technical expertise to create a really cutting-edge experience that will capture attention and help amplify the Malaria Must Die message around the world."
The augmented reality experience mirrors the message of the campaign, which calls for vocal action to reduce the impact of malaria worldwide. Earlier components of the campaign include a video of Beckham speaking out against malaria in nine languages (thanks to some AI-generated wizardry) and a user-generated content tool on the campaign's website encouraging visitors to record messages of support.
"It's important to find new ways to amplify the voices of those affected by malaria and give everyone the opportunity to speak out and call for more action to end this preventable disease. Malaria is the world's oldest and deadliest disease and is still claiming the life of a child every two minutes. We want to grab the attention of world leaders and to demonstrate that people around the world have demanded an end to malaria in this generation," said James Whiting, CEO of Malaria No More UK, the non-profit behind the Malaria Must Die campaign. "The 'Malaria Must Die, So Millions Can Live' campaign is part of the global drive to see progress accelerate. With the right leadership, tools, and funding, we can be the generation that ends this killer disease for good."
Apple CEO Tim Cook has said that "AR will change the world." While most typically imagine this occurring through the lens of commercial use cases, AR can impact social issues as well. Already, AR has helped parties draw awareness to the issues of climate change, homelessness, child mortality, and women's rights.
While Facebook takes its share of criticism for its business practices, it would be difficult to find fault with the role of its AR technology here.