OpenAI CEO Sam Altman’s Worldcoin project has been making headlines with its ambitious approach to creating a global ID, a global currency, and an app for all sorts of cryptocurrency payments. The team behind this venture, Tools for Humanity, plans to give out crypto tokens to users who get their iris scanned with a device called The Orb, igniting an air of skepticism among industry observers.
Concerns stem from the notion of requesting biometric details in a web3 space, which could be a potential slippery slope. Nevertheless, The Orb is expected to play a central role in enabling universal access to the global economy. According to Worldcoin’s website, The Orb is a biometric imaging device that privately and securely verifies an individual’s unique personhood. To sign up for a World ID and receive a share of Worldcoin tokens, users need to visit a Worldcoin Operator and have their personhood verified at an Orb. Alternatively, users can still use Worldcoin without interacting with an Orb.
The Orb first determines if someone is a living person with camera sensors and machine learning models analyzing facial and iris features. It then takes pictures of the individual’s irises and uses machine learning models to create an iris code – a numerical representation of the most important features of the iris pattern. Worldcoin claims that these operations happen in real-time on the Orb, with no images leaving the device unless users explicitly request a data backup or agree to help improve the system.
Despite the skepticism about The Orb, investors appear enthusiastic, as Worldcoin recently raised $115 million in a Series C round from Blockchain Capital, a16z, Bain Capital Crypto, and Distributed Global. This follows a previous round last year in which the company raised $100 million at a $3 billion valuation. Funds from the latest round will support bot detection, research and development, and the expansion of the Worldcoin project and application.
Spencer Bogart, a general partner at Blockchain Capital, has expressed in a blog post that Worldcoin could potentially become the largest onramp to crypto, with the World app being the most widely adopted crypto wallet. Currently, Worldcoin is in beta testing and has onboarded roughly two million users across five continents. Unfortunately, the World app informs US residents that there are no Orbs in the country just yet. However, The Orb devices will be touring several cities across the globe for a limited time between May and July, including Berlin, Dubai, London, Mexico City, Miami, New York City, San Francisco, Seoul, and Tokyo.