Scientists develop the 'cyberhug'
Scientists claim the average hug lasts for three seconds, but it has long been claimed that computers could allow us to do so remotely using electrical sensors.
Sensory equipment enabling people to share a hug across cyberspace has been in development for several years, and experts insist it will one day become part of everyday life.
Adrian Cheok, associate professor at Singapore's Nanyang Technological University developed one such system in 2005 allowing parents and children to share "cyberhugs" while miles apart.
Teddy bears were fitted with sensors that detected when they were hugged by the parent, and the sensation was transmitted to the child via a special jacket fitted with heated copper wires.
Speaking at the time, he told CNN: "For a while technology has been driving people apart, locking them in front of computer screens, now we hope to use it to bring them together."
His product did not achieve global success but last year scientists based in Japan built a similar product – a wearable robot dubbed "iFeel_IM!" ("I feel therefore I am").
The prototype, which looked like a network of connected straps similar to a harness, was designed to add a human-like level of sensation to online conversations.
It was unveiled last April by its inventor, Dzmitry Tsetserukou, an assistant professor at Toyohashi University of Technology, and his wife and colleague Alena Neviarouskaya, a researcher at the University of Tokyo.
When connected to a computer, the machine used a series of sensors and motors to mimic a hug along with other sensations such as several types of heart beat, the sensation of having butterflies in one's stomach and a tingling feeling down the spine.
Using special software it identified emotions expressed within messages and responded by providing the appropriate physical sensation.
Mr Tsetserukou said he decided not to incorporate sexual arousal into the product because it may compromise his aim of improving emotional connection across the internet.
But he predicted the system – which was 90pc accurate at detecting joy, fear, anger and sadness and only slightly weaker on nine further emotions – could soon become commonplace.
He said: "I am looking to create a deep immersive experience, not just a vibration in your shirt triggered by an SMS. Emotion is what gives communication life.
"This is really state of the art, there is nothing this accurate.
"In a few years, this could be a mobile system integrated into a suit or jacket. It's not that far away."