The Sharper Image emerges from the ashes as a "virtual brand"

The Sharper Image, once a staple at malls around the country, was snuffed out of business last year. Strangely, it seems that providing people with a free place to try out a massage recliner is not a viable business model.

But there's still some value in the techno-gadget brand name, and at the Consumer Electronics Store in Las Vegas this week, the newly reborn Sharper Image made its comeback. The private equity firm that controls the company are now letting outside companies release products under The Sharper Image name, giving it new life as a "virtual brand."

HoMedics, a Michigan company that makes (surprise) massage chairs, created a new company, SI Products, that would put out cheaper stuff under the banner of the deceased luxury gizmo peddler. So far, 24 products are available under the reborn name, but more companies are applying to add additional ones. By the end of the year, you'll be able to buy Sharper Image products at big stores like Bed Bath & Beyond and Macy's.