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"There was a time when one old eccentric guy with a notebook could do something important to science. Now even the resources of a major university are often not enough."
- Jerry Pournelle

Dustmice  
  Tiny robotic sensors that police could set loose in a crime scene, looking for tiny clues.  

I really like the name for these items; it has a sort of Disney quality that contrasts nicely with their intended use. They do not seem to be nanotechnology, but they are very small robots indeed.

A radio assayer hung from the track mounted in the apartment ceiling, having replaced the sniffer. Dustmice pushed through the cold stiff tendrils of once live carpet searching it for skin flakes and other debris trapped in the carpet's custom digestion.
From Queen of Angels, by Greg Bear.
Published by Warner Books in 1990
Additional resources -

I'm sure that these little robots would be very thorough; I also think that if they went across the floor in my house (after two kids), the little dustmice would run screaming out the door. And if they screamed, would their little tiny voices sound like Bob Newhart and Zsa Zsa Gabor, like in The Rescuers? Just wondering.

Researchers at the Department of Energy's Sandia National Laboratory succeeded in creating what is described as "the smallest autonomous untethered robot every created." It is a one quarter of an inch cube weighing less than an ounce. It really does turn on a dime (and parks on a nickel). Shown below is a parked bot:

Read the news release at Smallest Mini-Robot. The robots are fabricated using stereolithography; read more about that on the entry for naonfax, from All Tomorrow's Parties, by William Gibson.

Take a look at the grandparents of these little guys - the robot mice from Ray Bradbury's 1950 short story There Will Come Soft Rains.

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Additional resources:
  More Ideas and Technology from Queen of Angels
  More Ideas and Technology by Greg Bear
  Tech news articles related to Queen of Angels
  Tech news articles related to works by Greg Bear

Dustmice-related news articles:
  - Micromouse Robot Builders Seek The Brass Cheese

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Amazon Patents Annoying Robot That Follows You
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Autonomous Robots Navigate Like Rats
SINTEF Robot Cleans Solar Panels

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