It has been nearly 20 years since the first appearance of robotics in the operating room. In that time, much progress has been made in integrating robotic technologies with surgical instrumentation, as evidenced by the many thousands of successful robot-assisted cases. However, to build on past success and to fully leverage the potential of surgical robotics in the future, it is essential to maximize a shared understanding and communication among surgeons, engineers, entrepreneurs, and healthcare administrators. This article provides an introduction to medical robotic technologies, develops a possible taxonomy, reviews the evolution of a surgical robot, and discusses future prospects for innovation. Robotic surgery has demonstrated some clear benefits. It remains to be seen where these benefits will outweigh the associated costs over the long term. In the future, surgical robots should be smaller, less expensive, easier to operate, and should seamlessly integrate emerging technologies from a number of different fields. Such advances will enable continued progress in surgical instrumentation and, ultimately, surgical care.