After repeatedly asking customers to avoid dropping wireless earbuds on train tracks, the East Japan Railway Company (better known as JR East) now accepts its role as an AirPod retrieval service. But JR East needs some high-tech help, because the aluminum grabbers usually used to pick up shoes and phones are too clumsy for tiny AirPods.
Enter Panasonic; the company tapped to solve JR East’s earbud conundrum. According to Yahoo Japan, Panasonic is developing a special vacuum-like grabbing tool that gently suctions earbuds out of tight spots. The vacuum tool, which appears to be a modified cordless vacuum, has finger-sized suction tubes that are too small to swallow earbuds, so the electronics aren’t sucked into the vacuum’s body or damaged.
JR East recorded 950 instances of dropped earbuds between July and September. (Japan has a lot of trains). Retrieving the electronics with old-fashioned grabbing tools is nearly impossible, and authorities often have to wait until the end of the day to go down and pick up earbuds by hand. Of course, customers don’t like waiting and often try to retrieve lost earbuds without help, which explains JR East’s enthusiasm for the cutting-edge vacuum tool.
The Panasonic vacuum tool could find its way to other railway stations in the future. The Japan Times notes that Japan Railway Co., Keio Corp, and Tokyu Corp. deal with lost earbuds every day, and the New York Post reports that New York MTA workers are sick of fishing for lost AirPods. Hey … maybe they should make headphones with wires?