Panasonic is working with one of Japan’s largest rail companies to solve a new problem that has arisen in recent years: the rising number of people dropping wireless earphones on train tracks.
JR East, part of the former Japan Railways Group that covers the Tokyo and Tohoku regions of the country, says there were 950 incidents of headphones dropping across 78 train stations in Tokyo in the July-September quarter. Gigi Press reports. The number appears to represent a quarter of the total items dropped.
According to JR East, station employees typically use a “magic hand”-style grabber to pick up larger items that fall on the tracks, such as hats or smartphones. But the gravel between the rails makes smaller things – like, say, the left AirPod Pro – more difficult to retrieve, which means employees sometimes have to wait for the last train.
To combat this problem, Panasonic has been hired to collaborate with JR East on a vacuum-like device that is said to be more suitable for capturing stray earbuds. You can see it in the image above.
The device is being tested at Ikebukuro Station, a major hub in northern Tokyo, and preliminary results indicate that it works much faster than the traditional grabber.