East Japan Railway Co., also known as JR East, says that about 950 cases of dropped earphones happened across 78 stations in Tokyo between July and September this year. That figure, according to the railway company, made up for one-quarter of all items dropped during that period.
The issue, as The Japan Times reports, has become a headache for officials in Tokyo who often have to wait till the last train of the day before they can start searching for dropped earbuds, something which they’re finding especially hard to retrieve from between bits of gravel.
Station workers typically use a grabbing tool called “magic hand” to safely remove any debris/objects from the tracks, but due to the minuscule size of an average earbud and the frequency of droppings, the task has become “burdensome.”
It’s why JR East has asked Panasonic to develop a vacuum cleaner-style device that’s better suited to picking up these stray earbuds. The company is currently testing such a gizmo in Tokyo’s northern Ikebukuro station and has found it to be more effective than a traditional grabber. Since the issue has also been reported by other railway operators in the country, Panasonic will likely roll out a final version soon.
It’s easy to figure out why this is happening for train commuters. Wireless earbuds can often slip out of ears while getting on/off a train, which is why some first- and third-party apps have the ability to locate/track a lost earbud/device. A pretty useful feature to have, as this user found out.