We discuss the current developments and the perspective performances of adaptive secondary mirrors for high order adaptive a correction on large ground based telescopes. The development of the basic techniques involved a large collaborative effort of public research Institutes and of private companies is now essentially complete. The next crucial step will be the construction of an adaptive secondary mirror for the 6.5 m MMT. Problems such as the fabrication of very thin mirrors, the low cost implementation of fast position sensors, of efficient and compact electromagnetic actuators, of the control and communication electronics, of the actuator control system, of the thermal control and of the mechanical layout can be considered as solved, in some cases with more than one viable solution. To verify performances at system level two complete prototypes have been built and tested, one at ThermoTrex and the other at Arcetri. The two prototypes adopt the same basic approach concerning actuators, sensor and support of the thin mirror, but differ in a number of aspects such as the material of the rigid back plate used as reference for the thin mirror, the number and surface density of the actuators, the solution adopted for the removal of the heat, and the design of the electronics. We discuss how the results obtained by of the two prototypes and by numerical simulations will guide the design of full size adaptive secondary units.