Crypto Startup Gives Currency In Exchange For Eyeball Scans

Open AI co-founder Sam Altman is behind the cryptocurrency startup.
Ameya Paleja

Cryptocurrency giveaways are nothing new. But when a crypto startup wants to scan your eyeballs first, it is bound to raise more than just eyebrows. It certainly got Bloomberg asking questions. The answers came from the startup's first investor, Sam Altman. 

36-year-old Altman is no stranger to mind-opening concepts. In 2005, at the age of 19, he founded a company that allowed smartphone users to share their location with others. He then went on to lead the very accelerator, Y Combinator, that funded his startup and brought us prominent names like Stripe, Dropbox, and Airbnb. In 2015, he founded OpenAI, with Elon Musk, as a non-profit organization to advance artificial intelligence (AI).

After Musk left in 2018, to avoid a conflict of interest with AI work at Tesla,  Open AI received a $1 billion investment from Microsoft to create the most advanced type of AI, which benefits all of humanity. 

Altman's latest startup aims to extend the benefits of cryptocurrency to all of humanity as well. Called Worldcoin, the cryptocurrency wants to spread money equitably around the world. “So many people around the world don’t have access to financial systems yet,” 27-year-old Alexander Blania and co-founder of Worldcoin with Altman told Yahoo Finance. “Crypto has the opportunity to get us there.” 

To do so, it wants to give away these coins and is figuring out ways to do this. The eyeball scanning is part of identity verification that will prevent people from signing up multiple times. The startup is using a specially designed spherical orb to scan the irises of individuals and create a unique numerical code for each person.  Costing about $5000 to make, there are 20 prototypes that are being used to test this mechanism in various cities at a small scale. 

Worldcoin, itself is not ready for distribution and therefore the company is giving bitcoins to volunteers at the moment. Other details about the cryptocurrency are awaited but the company has big plans of ensuring that its coin reaches every person on the planet, while maintaining their privacy and being transparent. 

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With regards to the iris scan, the company says it does not store the image but deletes it after the unique numerical code is generated.  

The company is backed by Andreessen Horowitz of Coinbase Global Inc., Reid Hoffman, LinkedIn founder, and Day One Ventures. So far, it has raised about $25 million and will be headquartered in San Francisco. Altman was the first investor in the company but currently only an adviser with no role in day-to-day activities. 

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