A futuristic device called the Worldcoin Orb is back in the news. The company behind it gave away millions of dollars in cryptocurrency tokens to those who agreed to allow the object to scan its irises.
Worldcoin says this is just the beginning, and is in the middle of a world tour to add more eyeball scans to the more than 2 million already collected. And no, this is not a science fiction movie. The company is already doing this as part of an ambitious project that it says will preserve “our humanity” as AI takes over more parts of the world.
So what exactly is all this about? And perhaps most importantly, should you consider subscribing?
What is an orb, and what does it do?
The orb is shiny and about the size of a large grapefruit, and was built with the help of one of Apple’s chief designers. Worldcoin has built about 1,500 machines and is building more. You can see one picture above.
The orb has one goal: to scan and record your irises. It then converts the biometric image into an impenetrable string of numbers, which Worldcoin refers to as “IrisCode”. When combined with an algorithm, the code verifies that you are a unique human being and confirms this via an app on your phone.
Wealth Leo Schwartz agreed to do a survey in March – read his feature if you want the full technical explanation.
How do I register?
Worldcoin is serving the orb in 35 cities around the world, including Miami and New York. The company is also in the middle of a tour that will bring the device to a series of pop-up locations. You can find a list of sites on the Worldcoin website.
what is the point?
Worldcoin is owned by a parent company called Tools for Humanity that wants to make blockchain-based digital identity tools available to everyone. The premise is that in a world dominated by robots and artificial intelligence, it will be difficult to tell who is real and who is a machine.
The company claims that the best solution is for you to use the unique image of your own iris as a secure way to prove your “humanity”.
Who is behind this?
The Worldcoin orb is the pet project of Sam Altman, a Stanford entrepreneur who for years ran the prestigious Silicon Valley incubator Y Combinator. Currently, Altman is best known as the founder and CEO of OpenAI, the company that developed the popular AI tool Chat GPT.
Worldcoin has raised more than $200 million from venture capital funds such as Khosla Ventures and Bain Capital.
What is the coding angle?
Those who agree to have an iris scan receive a small amount of a cryptocurrency token known as Worldcoin, or WLD. The tokens started trading this week and are currently worth just over $2 each.
Worldcoin distributed the tokens via “airdrops,” which means they are sent directly to the wallets of eligible recipients rather than being listed on an exchange. Users in the US weren’t eligible to receive airdrops due to regulatory concerns, but that could change.
Beyond that, Worldcoin envisions a world where tokens are part of a larger ecosystem where a variety of services verify identities with iris scans. The company also believes it can become part of a future universal basic income scheme.
Do I have to register? Is it safe?
It’s up to you. Worldcoin claims the orb is designed so that no one — not even the company itself — can identify you thanks to an advanced privacy technology called zero-knowledge proofs.
While privacy experts consider this technology effective, critics have warned of the dangers of giving your vital data to a private company, and some say they don’t trust Worldcoin to act responsibly.