The light microscope is an icon of the sciences, but its sophistication and usefulness have had a far from linear evolution. During the last decade great progress in fluorescent probe design, light source and detector technology, and computers have contributed to a revolutionary increase in the capabilities of light microscopy, turning it from a static, 2D tool into a dynamic, 3D means of studying live biological specimens. We believe that the next wave in light microscopy is based on automation and improved spatio-temporal resolution. Our work on multimode robotic microscopy and standing wave-excited fluorescence microscopy is presented here. The former allows simultaneous imaging with several modes of light microscopy and good specimen control (temperature, displacement, chemistry), while the latter affords an axial resolution significantly improving on confocal microscopy and, for the first time, exceeding transverse resolution. Examples of biological information obtainable solely by these advances are also given.