DARPA and Other Programmable Matter Projects
The goal of Programmable Matter Program is to demonstrate a new functional form of matter, based on mesoscale particles, which can reversibly assemble into complex 3D objects upon external command. These 3D objects will exhibit all the functionality of their conventional counterparts.
Programmable Matter represents the convergence of chemistry, information theory, and control into a new materials design paradigm referred to as "InfoChemistry"—building information directly into materials
Wired also has coverage.
One team from Harvard is working on a kind of “generalized Rubik’s Cube” that can fold into all kinds of shapes. Another is trying to order large strands of synthetic DNA to bind together in a “molecular Velcro.” An MIT group is building “’self-folding origami’ machines that use specialized sheets of material with built-in actuators and data. These machines use cutting-edge mathematical theorems to fold themselves into virtually any three-dimensional object.”