We describe the design and operation of a high-speed adaptive optics system using a robust controller. The system is also general purpose—it can be used in almost any application with minimal modifications and can be set up and operated by a minimally trained operator. The demonstrated system uses a wavefront sensor camera operating at 955 frames/s, a Xinetics 37-channel deformable mirror, and a dual processor computer to perform computations. The system exhibits control of up to 5 waves of focus, a closed-loop bandwidth of ∼50 Hz, with a residual error of λ/75 rms. © 2004 Society of Photo-Optical Instrumentation Engineers.