A Vacuum Cleaner-Like Gadget Could Save Your Earbuds From Train Rails

Japan has put an end to its growing issue of lost earbuds.
Irmak Bayrakdar
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If you have ever owned a wireless pair of earbuds, you might be familiar with the fear of losing them. They could just slip out of your ears and fall into the gravel between train rails, never to be found again.

Japanese electronics company Panasonic has joined forces with East Japan Railway Company, also known as JR East, which operates in Tokyo and Tohoku regions, and developed a vacuum cleaner-like gadget to specifically pick up lost earbuds from train rails.

950 lost earbuds in three months

Per JR East, one of the major railway companies in Japan, in a three-month period between July and September 2020, there have been 950 cases of lost earbuds in the Tokyo area in a total of 78 train stations. These lost earbuds made up a quarter of all lost objects in train stations. 

That's not all, the same issue is currently still present all around the world. Most people drop their earbuds while waiting for the train in subway stations in other metropoles, with New York being the most notable. 

Prior to Panasonic's gadget, the railway personnel used a gripper tool to pick up lost objects from the tracks. According to the report, the staff has to pick up all dropped objects after the last train of the day as a daily task.

However, this occasionally got pretty challenging when you think about the size of earbuds and, of course, not all earbuds were lucky enough to be rescued out of the gravel, according to JR East, per Japan Times

Vacuum cleaner-like rescue gadget tested at Ikebukuro

The gadget has a thin tip that works with suction power much like a vacuum cleaner, to pick up lost objects from gravel, and while it works best with larger items such as shoes or smartphones, it worked better with wireless earbuds when compared to staff's manual efforts with the previous grabber tool. 

The gadget was tested in the Ikebukuro station in Tokyo, and the results showed that retrieving lost earbuds from the train rail gravel is much easier and faster with the help of the vacuum cleaner-like gadget, states Yahoo Japan

So don't be surprised when you see a vacuum cleaner working on the railway the next time you're in Tokyo!