Preh GmbH, an automotive supplier to BMW, Audi, and Mercedes, of climate controls, driver controls, sensor systems, ECUs, and instruments panels, has released a clip which previews some of the uses and functions which a touchpad iDrive controller could incorporate and facilitate.
A prototype touchpad iDrive controller system has already been spied
on the 2014 BMW X5 (F15) test mule, so we can expect it to begin appearing on BMW models by the end of 2013 / early 2014 with the release of the 2014 X5.
Some of the features shown in the video (such as blackpanel surfaces) are not relevant to our discussion, as it was part of a new center console design concept presented by Preh as the 2007 IAA, but what's interesting is seeing the use of an iDrive like controller knob with an integrated touchpad. You can see some of the potential uses for it, such as handwriting detection and multi-touch type gestures such as flicking and scrolling through lists.
Exactly how BMW actually implements the technology remains to be seen, but the potential for some innovative uses is certainly there. Whatever it is, hopefully it won't involve dramatic 80's electronic music.
Spy shot of the touchpad iDrive controller from next generation X5 (F15) prototype.