Stochastic Assembly (buzzword: Programmable Matter) is the primary topic of my PhD research. You can read about the topic and my small contribution elsewhere. The following links are probably a good starting point.
The video below (with narration) by my former colleague Mike Tolley contains a good explanation of where we are coming from (and going to) with this research (but naturally focusses on his own work). (cinema mode)
Neubert, J., Cantwell, A., Constantin, S., Kalontarov, M., Erickson, D., Lipson, H. (2010) “A Robotic Module for Stochastic Fluidic Assembly of 3D Self-Reconfiguring Structures”, Proc. Int. Conf. on Robotics and Automation (ICRA'10), Anchorage AK, May 2010, pp 2479-2484.
Tolley M. T., Kalontarov M., Neubert J., Erickson D., Lipson H. (2010) "Stochastic Modular Robotic Systems: A Study of Fluidic Assembly Strategies", IEEE Transactions on Robotics, Vol. 26, pp. 518-530.