Panasonic made a special tool for sucking lost AirPods off train tracks

The arrival of AirPods introduced a new problem cities weren’t prepared to deal with: dropped earpieces that end up on train tracks and other places from which they’re not easy to retrieve. This problem is truly a global one, with reports coming from multiple countries on this issue and the ways officials are dealing with it. Japan, it turns out, may have found the best solution.

Unlike increasingly archaic wired earbuds, AirPods and others like them are very small — drop one in the wrong place and you may never see it again. That hasn’t prevented many distraught owners from attempting to retrieve a lost AirPods earpiece from inadvisable places, such as from train tracks or beneath a sewer grate.

JR East, a railway company in Japan, is one of the companies faced with this problem and in need of an effective solution to keep people safe. Japan Times reports that 78 Tokyo area train stations reported around 950 cases of dropped earbuds — and that was just from July to September.

The most common solution used to retrieve these dropped earpieces is a simple grabber tool — the kind that looks like a retractable claw on the end of a long stick — but that’s a less than ideal solution. The earpieces are often stuck in the gravel and it can be difficult to get the tool at the right angle to grab the small object.

Here with a potential solution, according to the report, is Panasonic and a project it has been working on with JR East. The railway company is currently testing a special vacuum cleaner-like tool at Ikebukuro Station to suck up dropped AirPods. The tool is described as much quicker than the grabber tool.

Officials were sure to note that despite the annoyance for workers, the public should still ask an employee for help in retrieving a dropped AirPod rather than take the safety risk of trying to get it on their own.

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