Surgical robots have become increasingly accepted over the last 10 years and have made an important contribution to advances in minimally invasive surgery. The 'Assembling reconfigurable endoluminal surgical system' (ARES) project was an EU-funded initiative to develop a ground-breaking system for endoluminal surgery. Consortium scientists are developing an experimental prototype robot that enters the body through natural orifices or a very small incision. The device reconfigures itself into a complex structure in the gastrointestinal tract and can be remotely controlled to move freely through the stomach and intestines. Once the intervention has been carried out the robot disassembles itself before being recovered or biodegraded. Project partners focused on key theoretical and technological issues, including the assembly of the robot's different miniaturised modules inside a patient's body. Other issues involved the control, design fabrication, communication and actuation of the modules. The ARES project was part of a groundbreaking initiative that aims to put Europe at the forefront of nanotechnology research by turning science fiction into science fact.