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Worldcoin, the digital identity and crypto payments project co-founded by OpenAI Chief Executive Officer Sam Altman Image Credit: Bloomberg

San Francisco: OpenAI chief executive Sam Altman on Monday launched the Worldcoin crypto project that relies on an eye scan to verify a user's identity.

Worldcoin comes as the cryptocurrency industry is suffering hard times after the spectacular collapse of FTX and various legal cases against the sector's biggest players.

"The Worldcoin Foundation today announced that Worldcoin, a project co-founded by Sam Altman, Alex Blania and Max Novendstern, is now live," read a statement on Worldcoin's website.

Worldcoin will provide users with a private digital identity - a "World ID" - after they register in person using an "Orb" imaging device that scans their eye's unique iris pattern.

This was to help solve one of the main challenges facing the crypto industry that largely relies on pseudonyms to operate, leaving it vulnerable to spam bots and scams.

The company also launched its Worldcoin token, a cryptocurrency now tradable in certain locations and platforms, to millions of users who participated in early tests, the statement said.

Worldcoin aims to create the "world's largest identity and financial public network," according to its website.

"If successful, we believe Worldcoin could drastically increase economic opportunity, scale a reliable solution for distinguishing humans from AI online while preserving privacy, enable global democratic processes, and eventually show a potential path to AI-funded (universal basic income)," Altman and Blania said in a letter posted to Twitter, which is being renamed X.

The company spent three years developing the project, and two million people signed up for a World ID during its beta testing.

Worldcoin is rolling out 1,500 Orbs in locations across the globe, which will enable millions more to register, according to its website.

"Like any really ambitious project, maybe it works out and maybe it doesn't, but trying stuff like this is how progress happens," Altman tweeted.

Blania, too, was cautiously optimistic.

"This is the beginning of a long journey. Especially early on, things will not be perfect," he said.

In a sign of increased caution by regulators in treating crypto, Worldcoin wasn't available to trade in the US, where enthusiasm for the sector is significant, because of restrictions.

Worldcoin jumped to as high as $3.58 from the initial price of $1.70 before falling back to $2.28, according to CoinMarketCap.