Motion controls began gaining mainstream popularity in 2006 with the Wii. Motion controls have become increasingly popular since the release of the Wii, letting people who knew nothing about video games get in on the fun. It's also responsible for the expansion of the casual market.
Motion control is possible thanks to accelerometers which are found in the Wii remote, the Sixaxis controller and the Playstation Move. Some controllers offer 1-to-1 tracking of the player's movements.
The idea of motion control in gaming dates as far back as Sega's 1976 arcade boxing/fighting game Heavyweight Champ, where the player had to physically move a punching glove controller to punch. Sega later revisited the idea of motion in the 1980's. The 1981 arcade boxing game KO Punch used pressure-sensitive punching bag controllers to detect a player's punching power. The 1985 arcade motorbike racing sim Hang-On from Yu Suzuki and Sega AM2 had the player physically sit and move on a motorbike to control the player character in the game. Nintendo soon introduced the idea of motion control to homes with the Power Pad dance/fitness mat in 1986, followed in 1989 by the Power Glove, where the player moved a glove controller around to control games like Squaresoft's Rad Racer, though it was considered inaccurate.
The Sega Activator, based on the Light Harp invented by Assaf Gurner, was released for the Mega Drive (Genesis) in 1993. It could read the player's physical movements and was the first controller to allow full-body motion sensing. However, it was a commercial failure due to its "unwieldiness and inaccuracy". Despite its failure on consoles, Sega managed to more successfully introduce the technology in the arcades with Dragon Ball Z: VRVS in 1994; it used extra sensors to pull off better reaction sensing than what was possible on a Mega Drive console, making this Dragon Ball Z game the first successful example of full-body motion sensing in a video game. Another early motion-sensing device was the Sega VR headset, first announced in 1991. It featured built-in sensors that tracked the player's movement and head movement. Though it was never officially released, similar VR machines by Sega were demonstrated at Sega World arcades several years later.
Another early example is Konami's 2000 light gun shooter arcade game Police 911, which used full-body motion sensing technology (using a camera) to detect the player's movements (including maneuvers like dodging and taking cover), which are fairly accurately reflected by the player character within the game. Yet another early example is Namco's 2002 arcade game Mazan: Flash of the Blade, a first-person hack & slash game that used a Katana sword controller that could accurately detect the player's hand gestures. In 2003, Sony released their own motion-detecting device for home consoles, the EyeToy. In 2004, SSD Company released a console called the XavixPort, which featured motion controls resembling that of the Wii. Its most well known game was perhaps the 2005 release Jackie Chan's J-Mat, endorsed by Jackie Chan.
Motion controllers using accelerometers are used as controllers for video games, which was popularized in 2006 by Nintendo's Wii Remote, which uses accelerometers to detect its approximate orientation and acceleration, and serves an image sensor, so it can be used as a pointing device. It was followed by other similar devices, including the ASUS Eee Stick, Sony's PlayStation Move (which also uses magnetometers to track the Earth's magnetic field and computer vision via the PlayStation Eye to aid in position tracking), and HP's Swing. Other systems use different mechanisms for input, such as Microsoft's Kinect accessory, which uses a combination infrared structured light and computer vision, and the Sixense TrueMotion, which uses a magnetic field to determine position and orientation.