Japanese electronics company Panasonic has joined forces with East Japan Railway Company — better known as JR East — which operates in Tokyo and Tohoku regions, to develop a vacuum cleaner-like gadget to specifically pick up dropped earbuds from train rails.
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 fell into the gravel between train rails, never to be found again. Well, worry no more.
950 lost earbuds in three months
Per JR East, one of the major railway companies in Japan, there have been 950 cases of lost earbuds in a period of three months between July and September in the Tokyo area in a total of 78 train stations. These lost earbuds make up a quarter of all lost objects in train stations. And that's a whole lot of earbuds.
That's not all though, the same issue is 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 one.
Prior to Panasonic's gadget, the railway personnel used a gripper tool to pick up lost objects from the tracks. As a daily task, the staff has to pick up all dropped objects after the last train of the day.
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 new 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 works better with wireless earbuds when compared to staff's manual efforts with the previous grabber tool.
The gadget is being tested in the Ikebukuro station in Tokyo, and the results show that retrieving lost earbuds from the train rail gravel is much easier and faster with the help of the new 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!