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Worldcoin shares details of open-source, iris biometrics-scanning ‘Orb’

Worldcoin shares details of open-source, iris biometrics-scanning ‘Orb’

Cryptocurrency company Worldcoin has published a new blog post describing the “Orb,” the company’s iris biometric imaging device.

“After three years of R&D, we’re excited to showcase the Orb, explain at a high level how it works and release corresponding hardware engineering files,” the company writes.

“We see this as an important step on our journey to making our commitment to transparency more credible to the global community.”

The company explains that creating such a device was not in its initial plans, particularly considering that building custom biometric hardware is both challenging and expensive.

“It was only after concluding that biometrics are the sole realistic way of achieving our goal that we set out to create the Orb,” Worldcoin writes.

Among biometric technologies, the company chose iris scanning as it believes it offers the most accurate modality to provide a solid user experience that has also been successfully tested at scale.

“This is because the iris has strong fraud resistance and data richness, meaning it can be used to accurately differentiate between billions of unique humans. The more data-rich the biometric marker (e.g., the iris), the fairer and more inclusive the system.”

At the same time, to prevent the technology from being used for surveillance purposes, Worldcoin licensed the Orb under a modified version of the MIT license that prohibits the use of the technology and related materials for any applications that “could be harmful to the rights of individuals.”

From a technical standpoint, the Orb contains a two-camera system with a wide-angle camera and a telephoto camera with an adjustable ~5 degree field of view via a 2D gimbal. The wide-angle camera is responsible for capturing the scene, while a neural network predicts the location of both eyes. A captured, high-resolution image of the iris is further processed by the Orb into a unique identifier.

Explosion CAD of all relevant components of the Orb. Supplied by Worldcoin.

Worldcoin clarified that after testing many off-the-shelf products, they partnered with an unnamed “specialist in the machine vision industry” to build a customized lens.

“The lens is optimized for the near-infrared spectrum and has an integrated custom liquid lens which allows for neural network controlled millisecond-autofocus,” the company writes. “It is paired with a global shutter sensor to capture high resolution, distortion-free images.”

According to Worldcoin, the device uses the near-infrared wide-angle camera, a 3D time of flight camera and a thermal camera to prevent fraud and identify individuals correctly. The Orb is also reportedly privacy-focused as the fraud prevention algorithms only run locally.

“No images ever leave the device unless a person explicitly requests to back up their data for future upgrades and agrees to help us improve the system and increase fairness for everyone,” Worldcoin explains.

Moving forward, the company intends to open source as much of its technology “as possible” and ultimately fully decentralize the project.

The news comes almost a year after Worldcoin raised $100 million. More recently, the cryptocurrency firm received an unflattering assessment in a report by the German Marshall Fund of the United States.

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