New technology scans people’s eyes in exchange for cryptocurrency

A new startup from tech millionaire Sam Altman will use orb-shaped devices to scan people’s eyes in exchange for free cryptocurrency. The company has gained over 100,000 users globally and aims to reach one billion users by 2023. 

The startup is called Worldcoin and, according to CEO Alex Blania, it could be used as infrastructure for universal basic income one day. 

Worldcoin sounds like something out of a sci-fi movie. The tech uses metallic orbs that scan people’s eyes to pay them in crypto. The startup was launched out of ‘stealth’ on Thursday and promises to hand out free cryptocurrency to people who verify their accounts by taking an iris scan. 

Worldcoin has already attracted $25 million in funding from Silicon Valley investors including Coinbase and LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman. The firm has a $1 billion valuation. 

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The company was co-founded by Altman, who is the CEO of artificial intelligence group OpenAI and former president of start-up accelerator Y Combinator, along with theoretical physics student Alex Blania and Max Novendstern, a former investment associate at Bridgewater Associates. 

The idea seems far-fetched at first. Users can essentially get FREE money by simply scanning their eyes. For many this seemed too good to be true. 

However, Worldcoin’s founders say it’s about expanding the reach of the cryptocurrencies and financial services more broadly to the masses. Less than 3% of the global population are crypto users currently. 

Blania told CNBC, “Cryptocurrency is a very powerful thing. It will widen the boundaries of the economy in general and give any people access. 

How will it work?

Worldcoin has already shipped its orb-shaped devices to people in 12 countries. Testers encourage people to sign up to get their iris scanned and the image is then encrypted and becomes a unique code. The original data is then deleted to protect the user’s privacy. Following this, users are given a free share of Worldcoin’s cryptocurrency. 

According to Blania, the whole system was designed to be fundamentally privacy-preserving. “The iris code itself is the only thing leaving the orb. There is no big database of biometric data.” 

Worldcoin will eventually have a number of different uses. One early feature will be a digital wallet that lets users store their crypto and make payments. Blania hopes to then attract developers who can build apps on top of the system. 

Blania insists that Worldcoin isn’t a scam and that the company is working hard to ensure that people can’t cheat the system.