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March 28, 2006 at 11:51 AM

From RealNetworks to mobile stardom?

What is John Shay’s chin doing inside Janet Jackson’s bra, on President Bush’s shoulder and at the table of Leonardo da Vinci’s Last Supper?

It’s disguised as an alien from Planet Zup who is the central character of Head Zup, an imaginative Web-based video comic strip Shay launched less than a year ago.

Shay, the original product manager for RealAudio at Progressive Networks (later renamed RealNetworks), says his idea is to spread original mobile content the way MySpace.com, Flickr and other sites help spread user-generated Internet content. Head Zup lets people make their own video clips by turning a camera phone upside down and taking a short video of their chin. The company even sells $4 kits with plastic eyes and puff ball hair to turn chins into faces.

Shay makes some money through advertising, but hopes to syndicate his content to cellphone operators. The service and content are free to users. Shay says he got the idea after working on the 3G network launch at Hutchison Whampoa.

Plenty of people download songs or send photos, he said, but no one is really taking advantage of the network’s capability to make and share videos. Now Shay’s chin is getting some international acclaim: Head Zup is a finalist in the Content360 mobile content competition taking place in Cannes next week.

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