As long as I’m on the trail of bits of ideas, here’s one.
Take a UAV, or unmanned aerial vehicle. Or drone. Make it small. Done, right? We’ve got those little hobby quad-copters you can get for a few hundred bucks in the B&H catalog.
Now, make it smaller. Like a dragonfly. It can land in the palm of your hand. Super light, super small, solar powered. And it comes in swarms. Each individual dragonfly has a small underpowered low-res camera or other sensing gear, but the swarm as a whole can process all that imagery together into a high-res image.
You get them in what looks like an ice tray. You peel the foil off the tray, and in each pocket is a little ball packed in cotton wool. As it sits in the sun, each little ball slowly unrolls, spreads its iridescent wings, and initializes. The user gives the command, and they fly off in a swarm. They have distributed sensing and data processing, and send a datastream back to the mothership. If they can’t reach the mothership… good question – how much storage do they have? I suppose they could have a lot the way memory is shrinking. And they could distribute it in a kind of RAID array, where you could lose a few and not lose much capability.
What would you use it for? Finding minerals (i.e., gold in Australia is my favorite idea), mapping, ecosystem study, military scouting.
If one is found, it could self-destruct by dissolving. They could be tasty and smell good, so if one fails and falls to the ground, it could be eaten.
Anyway, more on that later.