An M.I.T. team led by Professor Daniela Rus have created a project called Smart Sand. While still in its infancy, the project aims to create little robots that could be placed into a container with an object where they would detect the shape of that object and then replicate it.
At the moment the Smart Sand is closer to being smart cubes, which measure 12mm on a side. It is only capable of replicating extremely simple shapes, made possible through an algorithm that allows the cubes to collect limited information and then pool the data to come up with a solution.
Eventually the team hopes to reduce the cube to segments that measure 1mm on a side, would would come closer to the Smart Sand label. At the moment they are working on translating the shape of an object to numerous blocks which have limited intelligence.