Abstract An ophthalmic virtual environment has been developed as part of a teleoperated microsurgical robot built to perform surgery on the eye. The virtual environment is unique in that it incorporates a detailed continuum model of the anatomical structures of the eye, its mechanics and optical properties, together with a less detailed geometric-mechanical model of the face. In addition to providing a realistic visual display of the eye being operated on, the virtual environment simulates tissue properties during manipulation and cutting and the forces involved are determined by solving a mechanical finite element model of the tissue. These forces are then fed back to the operator via a force reflecting master and so the surgeon can experience both the visual and mechanical sensations associated with performing surgery. The virtual environment can be used to enhance the images produced by the camera on the microsurgical slave robot during surgery and as a surgical simulator in which it replaces these images with computer graphics generated from the eye model.