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Dropped Your AirPods on Train Tracks? Enter the Panasonic Vacuum

Ikebukuro Station in Tokyo (TORU YAMANAKA/AFP via Getty Images)

Anyone with AirPods knows the panic of feeling one slip out of your ear. If you drop your earbuds on the train tracks in Japan, though, a new Panasonic vacuum can help. 

Panasonic is developing the device in collaboration with Japan’s JR East rail, which covers the Tokyo and Tohoku regions. The vacuum has a thin tip that uses suction power to collect earbuds lost in track gravel. It’s being tested now at JR Ikebukuro Station.

As noted by The Verge, Yahoo Japan reports that the vacuum picks up dropped earbuds faster than mechanical grabbers, which work best on larger items like lost shoes or smartphones.

Panasonic has long developed solutions to niche problems, from robots that harvest tomatoes to a wearable headset that also acts as a pair of blinkers to promote focus. But the dropped earbud problem occurs quite frequently. JR East had 950 cases in 78 train stations between July and September—that’s a quarter of all dropped items. 

Some train passengers in the US are unafraid to go after their dropped AirPods or other wireless earbuds, much to the chagrin of the New York City MTA. “I had to stop a man from going down [to] the tracks to get it. I told him to go upstairs to the booth and make a report,” a subway cleaner told the NY PostNY Post

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