When Facebook hosted an internal competition a few years ago to develop new product ideas, a handful of employees teamed up to build a robot named Max.

Shaped like a small, upside-down bowl, Max was designed to be a companion–a physical device humans could talk to that could detect their mood, according to two people familiar with the hackathon project. The creators gave Max little ears and whiskers so the device would be more fun and approachable, like a cat.

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