First of all, there are no true medical robots; none of the systems out there called medical robots are autonomous with regard to duplicating human activity, and few are even semi-autonomous. They are arguably bionic constructs; that is, enhancing the healthcare provider’s performance by electronic or electromechanical devices. The key here is that these devices enhance the abilities of the user, but do not replace them. It is reasonably too late to change the vernacular, and it is just a matter of semantics anyway. But why is this distinction important to design and development? This article addresses two of the reasons why the distinction is important:

  1. The regulatory strategy can be significantly different from other medical devices, especially regarding the level of autonomy, team usability validation, and training.
  2. Understanding that these systems are an extension of a clinician’s current ability and that they enhance an activity that clinicians may also do manually, thereby having an important impact on the user interface design and development.