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"In 1970 I found little difficulty staying 30 years ahead of the man in the street, and now I find it difficult to stay 18 months ahead of the man on the street."
- Vernor Vinge

Robot Snake Spy  
  A small robot in the shape of a snake, used for field work by spies.  

How to retrieve a small amount of material from a person held captive in a small cottage?

The coil on the table appeared to be a snake - tan and brown with black specks and a spade-shaped head. It did not look alive and it did not look dead.

...He reached down and partially uncoiled the snake, then squeezed its middle. A small hatch popped open, giving a glimpse of gleaming steel ribs and wires. He placed the tube inside the snake, then closed the hatch.

"The snake has hi-res terrain mapping tied in with augmented GPS, and in this model, face and voice recognition... Within sight of a targeted individual - I mean, the intended individual - it will make an audible announcement and open its hatch."

From Mariposa, by Greg Bear.
Published by Vanguard Press in 2009
Additional resources -

Interesting science-fictional predecessors to this idea include the mining worm robot from Love Among the Robots (1946) by Emmett McDowell and the mechanical cobra from Lord of Light (1967) by Roger Zelazny.

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

Robot Snake Spy-related news articles:
  - Snakebot Conquers Obstacle Course
  - Terrifying Robot Snake's Flying, Coiling Attack

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