Base isolation is the most popular seismic protection technique for civil engineering structures. However, research has revealed that the traditional base isolation system due to its passive nature is vulnerable to two kinds of earthquakes, i.e. the near-fault and far-fault earthquakes. A great deal of effort has been dedicated to improve the performance of the traditional base isolation system for these two types of earthquakes. This paper presents a recent research breakthrough on the development of a novel adaptive seismic isolation system as the quest for ultimate protection for civil structures, utilizing the field-dependent property of the magnetorheological elastomer (MRE). A novel adaptive seismic isolator was developed as the key element to form smart seismic isolation system. The novel isolator contains unique laminated structure of steel and MR elastomer layers, which enable its large-scale civil engineering applications, and a solenoid to provide sufficient and uniform magnetic field for energizing the field-dependent property of MR elastomers. With the controllable shear modulus/damping of the MR elastomer, the developed adaptive seismic isolator possesses a controllable lateral stiffness while maintaining adequate vertical loading capacity. In this paper, a comprehensive review on the development of the adaptive seismic isolator is present including designs, analysis and testing of two prototypical adaptive seismic isolators utilizing two different MRE materials. Experimental results show that the first prototypical MRE seismic isolator can provide stiffness increase up to 37.49%, while the second prototypical MRE seismic isolator provides amazing increase of lateral stiffness up to1630%. Such range of increase of the controllable stiffness of the seismic isolator makes it highly practical for developing new adaptive base isolation system utilizing either semi-active or smart passive controls.