Technology capable of diagnosing Alzheimer's disease long before its symptoms appear won a coveted honor for innovation Tuesday at the South by Southwest (SXSW) festival.

Neurotrack, which uses eye tracking to achieve a claimed 100 percent success rate, took the health technologies category in the SXSW Accelerator competition as the festival's interactive segment drew to a close.

"It a computer-based visual cognitive test that is able to diagnose Alzheimer's disease six years before symptoms appear," said Elli Kaplan, chief executive officer of the Richmond, Virginia-based upstart.

"Today the only way to diagnose Alzheimer's is once full symptoms are in existence," Kaplan told AFP, "but that's years after irreparable damage has already taken place."

Initial users of Neurotrack will be pharmaceutical manufacturers to help them develop drugs to prevent, or at least slow the progression, of the most common form of dementia.

But in time, Kaplan said, it will be rolled out to doctor's offices and research hospitals -- and potentially, much further down the road, appear in the form of an app that individuals can use as well.

SXSW Accelerator is a showcase for up-and-coming news, social, mobile, web, entertainment, health and music technologies. One of its 2010 winners, the voice recognition software Siri, now is a standard feature in all Apple iPhones.

Other winners Tuesday included the mobile advocacy app Phone2Action; Plotter, a social network for maps; mobile typing assistant Syntellia; Wanderu, a website for young budget travellers; and MakieLab, a 3D printing toy and game service.

The Accelerator winner for music technologies will be announced later this week, as the music portion of SXSW -- with more than 1,000 bands playing live around Austin -- kicks off and the film segment continues.