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"Human beings hardly ever learn from the experience of others. They learn; when they do, which isn't often, on their own, the hard way."
- Robert Heinlein

Robot Probes (Arr-twos)  
  Remote controlled robots that wander through a facility, bringing pictures and information to a central location.  

There must be an earlier reference to this idea somewhere, but I can't think of it. Niven and Pournelle use small, remote-controlled robots to be the "eyes and ears" of Tony Rand, the chief engineer of a massive arcology, Todos Santos.

He had to follow the minutiae, because he didn't know what would turn out to be vital.

That led to his development of robot probes; small devices with cameras and sound equipment which could move freely through Todos Santos under Rand's direct control. If he sent out two or three of the small tele-operated devices (he called them Arr-twos after the small droid in Star Wars), Rand could effectively be in several places at once, see machinery and construction details in real time from both above and below, and generally explore without leaving his bedroom.

From Oath of Fealty, by Larry Niven (w/J. Pournelle).
Published by Timescape in 1981
Additional resources -

The authors even provide us with some possible limits of the device, particularly during interactions with people:

Good as the Arr-twos were, with their full two-way communications and their TV screen to show Rand's face, he'd found it necessary to get out and talk to the technicians and carpenters and pipe fitters and maintenance people; talk to them himself, because most construction people didn't like talking to an Arr-two even with Rand's TV image.
This is becoming the preferred model for security guard robots (see links below).

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Additional resources:
  More Ideas and Technology from Oath of Fealty
  More Ideas and Technology by Larry Niven (w/J. Pournelle)
  Tech news articles related to Oath of Fealty
  Tech news articles related to works by Larry Niven (w/J. Pournelle)

Robot Probes (Arr-twos)-related news articles:
  - Rotundus And Rover: Robotic And Fictional Guardians (Updated)
  - PEBBLES Robot - Teleconferencing For Kids At NextFest 2006
  - Reborg-Q May You Shop In Peace
  - Porta-Person Remote Conferencing Stand-In
  - HeadThere Giraffe Telepresence Robot
  - DIY Telepresence By Teleoperated Robot
  - 7 Day Old Baby Meets Telepresence Robot Dad
  - Tmsuk Telepresence Shopper Cell Phone-Controlled
  - Rotundus Groundbot Robotic Spherical Guardian Video
  - MeBot Robot Avatar Telepresence
  - Telepresence Robot Roundup With Anybot
  - iRobot AVA Telepresence Robot With iPad
  - Videochat Robot: DIY Telepresence Robot
  - Kuri Robot Roams Your Home, Taking Pictures
  - Double Robotics iPad-Based Telepresence Robot
  - Beam Yourself To Distant Places
  - Telepresence In The Office
  - Temi Robotic Telepresence Roommate
  - Ford Uses Obedient Robot Dogs To Update Facilities Maps

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