A brief history of robotic systems in knee arthroplasty is provided. The place of autonomous robots is then discussed and compared to more recent 'hands-on' robotic systems that can be more cost effective. The case is made for robotic systems to have a clear justification, with improved benefits compared to those from cheaper navigation systems. A number of more recent, smaller, robot systems for knee arthroplasty are also described. A specific example is given of an active constraint medical robot, the ACROBOT system, used in a prospective randomized controlled trial of unicondylar robotic knee arthroplasty in which the robot was compared to conventional surgery. The results of the trial are presented together with a discussion of the need for measures of accuracy to be introduced so that the efficacy of the robotic surgery can be immediately identified, rather than have to wait for a number of years before long-term clinical improvements can be demonstrated.