Panasonic unveils vacuum cleaner-like device with a ‘magic hand’ designed to grab lost AirPods found on train tracks in Japan
- Panasonic is testing the vacuum cleaner in Tokyo’s Ikebukuro Station
- From July to September, over 900 pairs of AirPods fell on the tracks in 78 stations in Japan
- Previously, workers had to use a ‘burdensome’ grabber to collect earbuds
Panasonic has developed a special vacuum cleaner that sucks up dropped earbuds.
The device is being tested in Japanese train stations, where nearly 1,000 pairs of earphones have been dropped on the tracks in just three months.
Previously, train workers had to use a grabber tool to collect earbuds.
The process was ‘burdensome,’ according to staff, because the small audio devices would get stuck among the gravel.
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Panasonic has developed a new vacuum device that sucks up earbuds off train tracks. It’s being tested at JR East’s Ikebukuro Station, a major thoroughfare in North Tokyo
Customers are asked to alert railway staff about dropped items instead of trying to pick them up off the tracks themselves.
According to Japanese railway operator JR East, some 950 pairs of the wireless earphones fell onto the tracks in 78 stations between July and September 2020, comprising a quarter of all items dropped, The Japan Times reported.
To address the problem, JR East partnered with Panasonic and is using the company’s vacuum device at its Ikebukuro Station, a major thoroughfare in North Tokyo.
So far, the vacuum works much faster than traditional grabbers.
Traditionally, workers would have to use eight-foot grabbers to retrieve AirPods and other devices. The process was ‘burdensome,’ staffers say, because the earbuds would get stuck among the gravel
According to Japanese railway operator JR East, some 950 pairs of the wireless earphones fell onto the tracks in 78 stations between July and September 2020
In testing, the Panasonic vacuum retrieves items much faster than using a grabber
But dropping Apple’s $160 AirPods on subway tracks is hardly unique to Japan: The MTA in New York has considered a special announcement warning commuters not to remove their earbuds while getting on or off a train.
‘It’s a very simple message: If you drop your AirPods on the tracks, tell a member of staff. We will get your property back for you,’ former New York City Transit Authority President Andy Byford said last year.
‘We may not be able to get it back instantaneously. But the other message is, whatever you do, don’t even think about jumping down onto the tracks to go and retrieve your property. Don’t,’ he added. ‘Never, ever do that. You can’t rely on guessing when the next train might turn up. Make sure that you tell a member of staff, we’ll get it back for you and we’ll keep you safe.’
Byford had said the MTA would never stop train service to recover AirPods, but it would do its best to collect them later.
AirPods retail for at least $160. ‘They are more valuable to [commuters] than their lives,’ one MTA staffer said. ‘Just last week I had to stop a man from going down [to] the tracks to get it’
Between March and mid-July 2019, MTA records show subway workers retrieved 84 AirPods—plus hundreds more items listed as ‘earbuds,’ ‘earpods’ or ‘headphones.’
From September to December the number grew to 1,220, according to The New York Times.
‘They are more valuable to [commuters] than their lives,’ one subway cleaner told The New York Post. ‘Just last week 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.’
New Yorker Ashley Mayer recovered her AirPods from the subway tracks using a broom and some duct tape. MTA officials recommend commuters notify employees about dropped items rather than try to retrieve something themselves. ‘You can’t rely on guessing when the next train might turn up. Make sure that you tell a member of staff, we’ll get it back for you and we’ll keep you safe,’ said Transit Authority President Andy Byford
In July 2019, New Yorker Ashley Mayer recovered a pair from the tracks by fashioning a DIY grabber using a broom with duct tape at the end.
Recounting her subway adventure on Twitter, Mayer said she cleaned her AirPods off at home and they were ‘working wonderfully.’
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