Robo-Dogs for Grandma?

What to get Grandma for her birthday? Well, you might want to dig around in some piles of discarded electronics. Researchers at St. Louis University are studying whether the Sony Aibo can make nursing home residents feel less lonely. Yikes. If the Aibo—the recently discontinued, much-mocked plastic pooch—turns out to help, it may say less about robot dogs than it does about the quality of nursing homes and the deteroriation of our social fabric. Anyway, the same researchers recently got attention for a valuable study that showed that seniors get a boost from flesh-and-blood pups. Weirdly, however, that study also showed that the seniors actually preferred a visit from a dog alone, instead of with human companions. I guess if personality doesn't count, maybe the Aibo could work after all. —Lauren Aaronson