Why you need adaptive optics...
Disturbances can be the difference between capturing perfect images and a night of frustration. Mount errors, wind and vibrations can cause minute and very fast movements that are too subtle for your autoguider or telescope drive to correct, but that your sensitive CCD sensor can easily pick up resulting in egg shaped stars. By building on the technology of their guiding sensors, SBIG has created the adaptive optics to compensate for these small vibrations. Now, with larger CCD sensors in mind, the AO-X gives you a full 3" optical element to take full advantage of the larger image circle of the STX and STXL series of cameras, including the 16803 models. By adding the AO-X to your set up you'll never have to worry about wandering images again.
SBIG's adaptive optics use a closed loop system which means that your AO will check the position of the guide star after every move and make adjustments on the following movement. Working in tandem with your remote guider, the result is continuous corrections whic are ultra precise over the course of a long exposure.
The images below depict the effects of actual star movement. 1hz vs. 10hz.
The resulting long exposures of this star with and without the AO in place:
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SBIG requires that control of the AOX involve one of their cameras (STXL or STX) in combination with guiding from either one of their Remote-Guide-Heads or the built-in guide-chips of their STX camera or STXL self-guiding filter-wheels.
SBIG has not indicated an interest in developing a "standalone" version that would support third-party cameras, when this question has come up in the past. That may or may not change in the future.