Losing wireless AirPods and other wireless earbuds on train tracks has become something of a public crisis, with people going to extreme lengths to retrieve them — such as fashioning a grabbing device out of a broomstick and duct tape. Now, Panasonic has heeded the call to develop a better way forward by working with Japan's JR East rail group to create a vacuum specifically for nabbing falling buds.
Fallen on hard... surfaces — JR East said in an interview with The Japan Times that it had 950 incidents of dropped earbuds between the months of July and September. But it's a burden for workers to retrieve them because they have to wait until the last trains of the day have run. And they typically use a fiddly mechnical claw to pick up the earbuds, but since they're so small, buds can get wedged between bits of gravel between the tracks where they're frustratingly hard to pick up.
The vaccum bypasses this obstacle with tubes that are literally the size of fingers and can suction misplaced buds out of tight spots. The fingers are small enough that they hold the earbud in place but don't suck it into the body of the vacuum.
We love it — It seems like there are simpler and more affordable ways to address this issue. The AirPods have magnets in them, so maybe a stick with a magnet on it would work? Or you know, the AirPods themselves could be designed to keep a better hold in your ear. But the Panasonic vacuum is more fun, and in typical Japanese style, a very over-engineered solution to a technology-driven, and thoroughly contemporary problem.
Hopefully, Panasonic will make these suckers (no pun intended) available globally, if only for the sanity of train operators the world over.