In this article, we provide an evidence-based primer of current tools and evolving concepts in the area of intraprocedural artificial intelligence (AI) methods in colonoscopy and laparoscopy as a ‘procedure companion’, with specific focus on colorectal cancer recognition and characterisation. These interventions are both likely beneficiaries from an impending rapid phase in technical and technological evolution. The domains where AI is most likely to impact are explored as well as the methodological pitfalls pertaining to AI methods. Such issues include the need for large volumes of data to train AI systems, questions surrounding false positive rates, explainability and interpretability as well as recent concerns surrounding instabilities in current deep learning (DL) models. The area of biophysics-inspired models, a potential remedy to some of these pitfalls, is explored as it could allow our understanding of the fundamental physiological differences between tissue types to be exploited in real time with the help of computer-assisted interpretation. Right now, such models can include data collected from dynamic fluorescence imaging in surgery to characterise lesions by their biology reducing the number of cases needed to build a reliable and interpretable classification system. Furthermore, instead of focussing on image-by-image analysis, such systems could analyse in a continuous fashion, more akin to how we view procedures in real life and make decisions in a manner more comparable to human decision-making. Synergistical approaches can ensure AI methods usefully embed within practice thus safeguarding against collapse of this exciting field of investigation as another ‘boom and bust’ cycle of AI endeavour.