Wolfram Alpha answer engine wins 'best of show' award

Wolfram Alpha search engine delivers factual answers to online queries instead of links to web pages. (SUPPLIED)

A new Wolfram Alpha search engine that delivers factual answers to online queries instead of links to web pages won top honours on Sunday at South By South West (SXSW).

Wolfram Alpha was crowned "best of show" at an annual web awards ceremony that featured categories ranging from blogs, business and classic online services to mobile and film innovations on the internet.

"It is gratifying to be recognised," Wolfram Alpha's freshly-hired Managing Director Barak Berkowitz said after accepting the award.

"We expect Wolfram Alpha will be ubiquitous all over the web, everywhere, the same way today Google Maps are."

Like online mapping services, Wolfram Alpha provides factual answers to online queries. For example, Wolfram Alpha could tell a searcher how old a historical figure or celebrity was when they died or solve mathematical problems.

The curated answer engine uses mathematical formulas to scour the internet for information and natural language recognition technology to figure what queries are aimed at finding out. "We think about what are the holes in this dream of all the knowledge of the world's people being available to everybody," Berkowitz said. "One of those holes is for there to be a fact engine on top of a search engine. That is not available today and that is what we are building."

Wolfram Alpha recently announced a deal to provide factual answers to relevant queries at Microsoft's Bing search engine.

Somewhere between five and 10 per cent of web searches are for factual answers, meaning that there are billions of queries looking for the kind of information Wolfram Alpha intends to provide, according to Berkowitz.


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