The University of Oxford's Nuffield Department of Clinical Neurosciences has been trialling the PRECEYES Surgical System, a robot designed to perform surgery on the retina, the surface at the back of the eyeball.
Results of the clinical trial show that all six operations carried out by the robot were a success, and in some cases even proved more effective than the human doctors' efforts.
The study included 12 patients who all required surgery to remove a membrane from their retina to improve vision, by cutting out a collection of cells that had clumped together.
Six of the operations were carried out by doctors and six were conducted using a robotic arm, operated by a surgeon using a joystick.
The procedure requires tiny incision just above the pupil, through which the surgeon inserts a torch and cuts out the membrane using microsurgical instruments and while looking through a microscope.
In the robot version, the surgeon inserts the robot through an incision less than 1mm in diameter just below the pupil, and operates the robot to remove the membrane.
All 12 surgeries were a success, but according to a press release issued by the university, in some cases the robot made the surgeon even more effective than usual.
The robot-assisted operations took about three times as long as a traditional one.
However, trial leader Robert MacLaren told New Scientist that this was partially the result of the surgeons being unfamiliar with the robot, meaning they moved slowly out of caution.
In a second phase of the trial, surgeons used the robot on three patients to dissolve under-retina hemorrhages, which were also successful.
MacLaren said: "Our next step will be to use the robotic surgical device for precise and minimally traumatic delivery of a gene therapy to the retina, which will be another first-in-man achievement and is set to commence in early 2019."