Microsoft's Surface to drive BMW customization

The software giant's multitouch technology will be incorporated in BMW Product Navigator devices at dealerships to help customers choose and animate new-car options.

BMW has been among the leaders in high-tech car innovation, occasionally even jumping too far ahead of what its older customers preferred to use.

So it should be no surprise that the German carmaker wants to lure in potential customers with another cool high-tech tool.

The BMW Product Navigator, which employs Microsoft's Surface computer, lets potential customers hand-pick options, then see a computer-generated video of their future car in action.

By placing mini discs on the computer table, customers at dealerships can add features like wheels in designing their customized BMW. Users can also use Microsoft's multitouch Surface gestures to rotate, move, and enlarge on-screen images.

Instead of showing the usual computer-generated image of a customized car, the program produces a video. The video, which is shown to users on a separate computer screen hung on a wall, shows the customer how their car will look from the inside and outside while being driven.

The results of each configuration a customer comes up with can then be printed, e-mailed, or saved to a USB drive to take home.

BMW has posted a video (above) on Web site and YouTube of Franz Wimmer, innovation manager at BMW Group, demonstrating how the Surface device works.

Don't go running out to your nearest BMW dealership just yet to check the technology out. The company has not yet specified when the BMW Product Navigator kiosks will be widely available.