Robots have been around the OR for a while, but none look much like C3PO or R2D2. They do help in delicate procedures, lending the precise nature of a robotic arm with an exactness that is hard to duplicate in a human.
The robots are coming to the delicate world of eye surgery as well. A couple of years ago, tweed-clad researchers at the University of Oxford began clinical trials for the PRECEYES Surgical system.
In the robot-assisted surgery, the (human) surgeon takes charge of PRECEYES and controls the mobile arm with a joystick. You can swap out various instruments on the arm, and it eliminates the slight tremors that plague even the most steady-handed of humans.
The surgeon slips the robot through an incision less than 1mm in diameter
The trial enlisted 12 patients that each needed a membrane removed from their retina. Six received traditional surgery, and the other half were robot-assisted.
In the robotic procedure, the surgeon slips the robot through an incision less than 1 mm in diameter. It separates the membrane from the retina, then removes the membrane from the eye, and exits through the same hole. In the surgeries conducted without the robot, the surgeon manually uses microsurgical instruments while peering through an OR microscope.
All 12 surgeries, both robot-assisted and traditionally human, were successful. Check out more details in Nature Biomedical Engineering.