Sufferers of long-distance relationships rejoice: A Japanese lab is working on a machine designed to let people smooch – and even French kiss – over the Internet.

The “tactile communication” system for now is probably a little rougher than even a teenager’s first awkward kiss, though it might remind you of that first milkshake you and your significant other shared. After all, the Kiss Transmission Device mainly consists of a person on one end manipulating with his or her mouth a bent straw attached to a computer that stores information about the "kiss" and sends it to another box to repeat the same motions in a recipient’s mouth. 

The system is currently based on a single PC, but could be extended over a network, a researcher says.

A video from the University of Electro-Communications’ Kajimoto Laboratory (below) shows how it’s done.

“The goal is to obtain the feeling of kissing,” through bilateral control that replicates the same movement on both ends, says Nobuhiro Takahashi, from the Graduate School of Information Systems.

Kiss information for individuals can be recorded and replayed. Takahashi suggests a hugely popular entertainer – Lady Gaga? Justin Bieber? – could record their kissing technique and then share it. 

“That could be hugely popular if you offer it to fans,” he says.

More advanced versions of the system could replicate taste, breathing and tongue moistness to make Internet kisses even more realistic. 

“If we can recreate all of those, I think it will be a really powerful device,” Takahashi says.

This is far from the first attempt by techies to put networks and gadgets to work helping out the romantically challenged or love-starved. We’ve got USB wedding rings, sex robots and we even rounded up a collection of unsexy Valentine’s iPhone apps in February that included a touchscreen system for judging your kissing technique.