The Orb FAQs

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What is the Orb?

As AI advances, the ability to know what is truly human-generated content online is becoming a necessity. The Orb, developed by Tools for Humanity (TFH), is the first custom biometric imaging device built for the Worldcoin project to verify humanness and uniqueness in a secure and privacy-preserving way. 

The TFH engineering team spent years in research and development while building the Orb. This was necessary to ensure the device’s security and privacy-preserving features. The Orb contains custom software and hardware, including a custom telephoto lens, that is advancing the state of the art in iris biometric technology. 

An in-depth look at the Orb’s hardware can be found here, and the story behind its unique spherical design can be found here.


Why is the Orb necessary?

Iris biometrics are increasingly a topic of discussion, evidenced by Apple’s recently announced Optic ID. This is for good reason, as the human iris has very high unpredictability, or entropy—enough to theoretically distinguish between billions of individual humans.

Studies have shown that the iris code generated from a scan of a human eye has significantly more entropy than a fingerprint. Similarly, iris recognition is around four orders of magnitude (10,000x) more accurate than facial recognition.

Since commercially available iris imaging devices did not meet the technology or security requirements needed to achieve the Worldcoin mission, the team at TFH spent years developing a custom device to enable universal access to the global economy in the most inclusive and privacy-protective manner possible.

Further information about the entropy of iris biometrics can be found here, and a deeper understanding of why the Worldcoin project uses them for proof of personhood can be found here

How is the Orb used?

The Orb is used to verify a person’s humanness and uniqueness as part of the World ID protocol. It does this by first using highly specialized sensors to ensure the person standing in front of it is a human. It then takes, processes and, by default, promptly deletes a series of iris images in order to create an iris code, which is a digital representation of the texture of the iris. 

A message containing the iris code is sent from the Orb and compared against all other iris codes previously scanned at an Orb. Once a person’s uniqueness has been verified in this way, they can receive a proof of personhood credential on a compatible digital wallet.

To prioritize privacy, all of the liveness verification occurs on the device itself. Additionally, anyone can verify their humanness at an Orb without providing information such as names, email addresses, phone numbers, social profiles, etc.

Further information about proof of personhood can be found here, and answers to frequently asked questions about World ID can be found here

What security features does the Orb have?

In line with the Worldcoin project’s commitment to privacy protection, the Orb has robust security features to prevent spoofing, tampering or hacking. 

Each Orb is provisioned with a private key, which is stored in secure hardware, that authenticates the Orb and signs important messages. Fraud prevention algorithms based on multispectral sensors run locally on the device for maximum privacy. By default, the Orb promptly deletes iris images after the creation of the iris code. Additionally, a red team supporting the Worldcoin project is continuously testing the device, and several teams are working to further increase the security of the Orb every day. 

With regard to World ID, the product is designed in such a way that zero knowledge proofs protect the use of World ID being tied to a person's biometric data or iris code. World ID uses an open source protocol known as Semaphore that confirms verifications cannot be tracked to a person’s identity, nor to verifications in other applications.

More information about Semaphore and Worldcoin’s privacy preserving proof of personhood protocol can be found here.

Does the Orb store biometric data?

As stated above, the Orb promptly deletes iris images by default after the creation of the iris code. Individuals also have the option to opt-in to back up their images. Doing so shares their iris images with Worldcoin to train the project’s iris detection and segmentation models and similar algorithms.

If a user opts-in to image custody, images are stored on an encrypted hard drive in the Orb before being uploaded. Additionally, each image is individually encrypted with an individual key from the backend to make these images irretrievable if an Orb were ever to be compromised.

Absent explicit user consent otherwise, however, the message containing the iris code is the only output from this process. A deeper dive on the project’s privacy protections can be found here

Is the Orb open source?

Worldcoin is committed to open sourcing as much of our technology as possible and ultimately to fully decentralizing the project. This is done not only for transparency and security, but to enable other teams that want to build devices for the Worldcoin protocol in the future.

As an important step, all relevant, hardware-related engineering files for its current version have been released in a GitHub repository. You can download Eagle (PCBs) to view the files and use Autodesk’s CAD viewers for free.

All files are published under the Worldcoin Responsible Use License, which is based on the MIT Open Source License and inspired by Uniswap’s BSL and Electric Coin Co.’s BOSL. The license balances transparency and decentralization while preventing capture and reducing the risk that Worldcoin technology could be used in harmful ways. The firmware will also, whenever possible without compromising security, be open sourced or released under the Responsible Use License in the future.


The above content speaks only as of the date indicated. Further, it is subject to risks, uncertainties and assumptions, and so may be incorrect and may change without notice. A full Disclaimer can be found in our Terms of Use.